England: New Restrictions for UK and Irish Travelers Returning from High-Risk COVID-19 Countries

(Feb. 16, 2021) On February 15, 2021, England established increased testing, stronger enforcement, and more stringent quarantine requirements to combat the COVID-19 pandemic in the country. The U.K. government banned entry to all but U.K. and Irish citizens and residents from 33 countries considered “high risk” for transmitting new variants of COVID-19. These countries are frequently referred to as the “red list.” When announcing the new restrictions, the secretary of state for health and social care, Matt Hancock, said, “I make no apologies for the strength of these measures,” adding that legislation will be introduced to implement these new requirements.

The new plans were established after seeking advice from both Australian officials and their authorities on quarantine and are similar to those in place in that country. The new measures consist of three parts:

Stringent Quarantine

All U.K. and Irish residents returning to England who have been in a “red list” country in the 10 days prior to travel will be required to quarantine in a room in a designated hotel for 10 days from the date of arrival, or longer if they test positive for COVID-19 during their stay. This hotel room must be booked online before travel and costs each traveler 1,750 pounds (£) (about US$2,430) for the hotel, transport, and testing. Only a small number of ports are accepting arrivals from “red list” countries, and the designated hotels will be closed to guests who are not quarantining. The government has currently contracted with 16 hotels for a total of 4,600 rooms to be used for these purposes.

This hotel quarantine will run alongside the 10-day self-isolation period at home required for travelers returning from countries outside the Common Travel Area, but which are not on the “red list.” These travelers must complete a passenger locator form that informs the government where they will be located during the quarantine.

Once their quarantine period is successfully completed, all travelers are required to comply with any orders in England, such as the national lockdown, which was made into law by the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (All Tiers) (England) Regulations 2020 on December 2, 2020.

Increased Testing

All travelers arriving in England will be required to take a minimum of three COVID-19 tests. Travelers must take a COVID-19 test within three days before to their departure to England, and they will not be permitted to enter England if the test is positive. The new measures expand COVID testing for all international arrivals, both those required to quarantine at home and those arriving from “red list” countries who are required to quarantine in a designated hotel. The further testing will occur on days two and eight of the quarantine. The COVID-19 tests must be booked and paid for along with the hotel room before travel. If any COVID-19 test is positive during the quarantine period, the traveler will be required to remain in the hotel room or in self-isolation for an additional 10 days from the date of the test. If the traveler becomes sick during this time, where necessary, he or she will be provided with treatment from the National Health Service (NHS).

Enforcement

The government has increased the penalties for travelers who do not comply with quarantine or COVID-19 testing requirements. The penalties are a combination of fines and imprisonment, and apply to travelers who are quarantining in any location in England and in designated hotels. A duty is placed on passenger carriers to ensure that passengers have signed up for the hotel quarantine before departing, have a negative COVID-19 test taken within three days before departure, and have completed the passenger location form. Passenger carriers can be fined up to £2,000 (about US$2,780) if they do not make these checks. Passengers who fail to undergo mandatory COVID-19 testing face a £1,000 fine (about US$1,390). International travelers who fail to take the second COVID-19 test face a £2,000 penalty and an automatic extension of their quarantine period from 10 to 14 days. International travelers who fail to quarantine in a designated hotel face a fixed penalty of £5,000, which can increase to £10,000 (about US$6,950 and $13,900, respectively). International travelers who attempt to conceal travel to a “red list” country 10 days prior to their arrival in England face a fine of up to £10,000 and/or up to 10 years’ imprisonment.

The secretary of state for health and social care has noted that he has been “working with the Home Secretary, the Border Force, and the police to make sure more resources are being put into enforcing these measures.”

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