On 26 January 2021, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that – in an attempt to reduce COVID-19 transmission levels – those arrivals in the UK who are still permitted to enter from certain high-risk countries will be required to quarantine in hotels on their arrival. This comes hot on the heels of the suspension of all remaining travel corridors into the UK.
The announcement mirrors rules which have been in place in Australia and New Zealand for many months and reflects an international move towards greater lock down and restrictions on travel across Europe and the wider world. For example, the Europe Union and Israel have closed borders to some international arrivals. The EU is also considering rules preventing cross border travel for European citizens.
Most travellers to the UK from South Africa, South America and Portugal (22 countries in total) have already been prevented from entering the UK. British nationals and those with UK residency rights who are still permitted to enter the UK from these countries will be required to isolate in a prescribed hotel for 10 days on arrival and pay for the costs of their stays. Those who do not comply with the rules will be subject to a fine and possible criminal prosecution. Travel from countries like the USA and much of the Middle East including Israel is still permitted without hotel quarantine.
No. Subject to a limited number of exceptions, the requirement to quarantine for 10 days at home, or five days for those who pass a second negative test, will remain in place for all other travellers.
The hotel quarantine rules are expected to take effect imminently, however, no specific start date had been issued at the time of writing. Guidance in relation to the hotel arrangements, security provision and refreshments will be needed.
All arrivals to the UK are required to provide a negative COVID text taken within the 72 hours before they travel. Non-provision of this test is a criminal offence and attracts a fine of £500. Arrivals are also required to complete a Passenger Locator Form prior to travel. Non-completion of this form is also a criminal offence. Non-compliance with either rule may prevent the traveller from boarding their flight.
The government has not ruled out expanding the rules to other arrivals in the future. The government has also announced additional checks on those seeking to leave the UK to ensure that they are permitted to travel. Again, fines will be issued in the event of non-compliance with the rules.
The introduction of quarantine hotels will have some detrimental impact on the UK's severely dented travel industry. While direct comparison is difficult, following the introduction of quarantine hotels in Australia in March 2020, international visitors there fell dramatically from 7.5 million to 72,111 between July and October 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. UK passenger data shows that arrivals in October 2020 are 82% lower than those in October 2019 so there may not be much further to fall.
It's expected that, if quarantine hotel rules are in place for some time, and are expanded to those arriving from other countries, this will lead to pent up travel and visa demand later in 2021. Other data shows that London is Europe's tech city and demonstrates the continuing demand for business travel and movement into Europe through London. This is supported by the Tech Nation visa catering to EU and inbound migration as well as the Global Talent visa as well as the 1 December 2020 changes to the UK's Points Based System.
If you'd like to discuss any of the issues rea please contact Vikki Wiberg, Charlie Pring or your usual Immigration & Mobility contact.