Nearly a year after the coronavirus pandemic began, the UK has introduced an Australian-style hotel quarantine system in an effort to stop the spread of the newly identified variant of COVID-19.
Travelers returning to the UK from 33 countries deemed high risk must be quarantined in a government-approved hotel for 10 days, while in Scotland all arrivals must be isolated in quarantine hotels.
A similar scheme has been implemented in Australia since last year.
So how many schemes will emulate the Australian model? This is what we know.
What is the UK trying to do?
Hotel quarantine schemes are required to expand travel restrictions already in place for 33 high-risk countries that have experienced cases involving a new variant of COVID-19.
The ban applies to persons who have entered or traveled through one of the “red list” countries 10 days prior to travel.
Under the new scheme, UK and Irish citizens, long-term visa holders and UK residents can now travel from the red list countries to the UK but they must quarantine at government-contracted hotels for 10 days upon their return.
Travelers from all other countries can enter provided they have a negative PCR test 72 hours prior to travel and they undergo a 10-day quarantine at their home or where they live.
Scotland goes one step further, with every arriving international tourist forced into hotel quarantine – as in Australia.
Those who have to undergo hotel quarantine are met with staff at the passport inspection department, where they are then monitored as they collect their bags and then directed to the special hotel transport bus.
A hotel quarantine booked through a private travel company website costs 1,750 British pounds ($ 3,126) for a 10-day stay, with additional charges for additional guests or children.
These costs include hotel stays, transportation to hotels and COVID-19 testing, which occurred on the second and eighth day of the 10-day quarantine.
There is strict fines for those who violate quarantine rules, with the threat of imprisonment for those who deliberately lie on a passenger search form.
Is there a gap?
Scottish authorities have raised concerns over a change in rules between Scotland and Britain, with fears that people arriving at UK airports and ferry terminals from non-red list countries could then travel to Scotland.
UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he would speak with the Scottish Government about the possibility of those heading to Scotland via UK airports being asked to go into quarantine in the UK.
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she welcomed the discussions and hoped there would be progress on this issue “in the days to come.”
There are currently no international flights into Wales and Northern Ireland, which have their own set of travel rules.
How does it compare to Australia?
The UK’s 10-day mandatory hotel quarantine requirement will only apply to people originating from the red list countries – particularly South American and African countries – rather than all countries as is currently the case in Australia.
Scotland will enforce it for all arrivals, but the UK’s overall hotel quarantine system is less stringent than Australia’s.
The UK will allow people to go outside “for a breath of fresh air,” unlike in Australia where hotel guests are not allowed out of their rooms for two weeks.
Hotel quarantine guests in the UK are expected to be accompanied by security guards, and will not be allowed out of the hotel grounds, according to Interior Minister Victoria Atkins.
“I think allowing someone a breath of fresh air during a 10 day visit to the hotel, with all the very strict measures we have, I think makes sense – but of course we will continue to review these measures,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today Program.
But Michael Toole of the Burnet Institute in Melbourne told the BBC the strategy was “very risky”.
“We have cases where guests open the door and, with positive pressure, this type of virus goes out into the corridor, goes down and infects hotel staff,” he said.
There are also concerns that passengers from red list countries will mix with passengers from non-red list countries after disembarking their flights and before arriving at passport check.
What’s the reaction like?
In the run-up to the mandatory quarantine announcement, airline bosses including British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and easyJet criticized the plan.
They ask for a support package if the plan works.
On Saturday, Heathrow Airport, Britain’s largest and busiest international travel hub, warned there was a “significant loophole” in the scheme and it was still seeking “necessary guarantees” from the Government of staffing border controls after queues of nearly five hours in several last day. .
He also warned of suspending some flights if passenger deposits could not be cleaned up sooner.
On Sunday a Heathrow spokesman said “good progress” had been made to address some of the problems, and the Border Force had assured the airport they had sufficient resources to avoid a similar incident.
Edinburgh Airport in Scotland has raised similar concerns, saying the Scottish Government’s original plans “lack basic details”.
ABC / cable