UK Announces £1,750/Person Government-Supervised Quarantine Plans

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The UK’s Health Minister Matt Hancock has finally announced further details of the government’s supervised quarantine scheme that is set to come into force from 15 February, as well as revealing plans for fines and potential prison sentences for anyone evading the new restrictions.

Key Points Of The Announcement

  • The UK government has entered into contracts with 16 hotels for the supply of 4,600 rooms (initially) from 15 February 2021 for the purposes of mandatory supervised-quarantine in England.
  • The cost of the government-supervised quarantine will be £1,750/person which will cover the costs of the hotel stay (including food and drinks), transport to the hotel, the cost of security at the hotel, and any Covid test that travelers have to take.
  • UK and Irish residents who’ve been in red list countries in the last 10 days and who wish to enter England will have to quarantine in an assigned hotel room for 10 days from the time of arrival.
  • Travelers wishing to travel from red list countries will have to book and pay for their hotel quarantine before they travel. Bookings will be made available through an online platform that will go live on Thursday 11 February.
  • Passengers will only be able to enter the UK through a small number of ports that currently account for the vast majority of passenger arrivals. When they arrive, they’ll be escorted to a designated hotel which will be closed to guests who aren’t quarantining.
  • Anyone arriving in England from Monday 15 February, will be required to get PCR tests on days 2 and 8 of their stay regardless of whether they’re in government-supervised quarantine or if they’re self-isolating at their own place of lodging. These tests are in addition to the test that travelers have to take before they embark on their trip to England.
  • All mandatory tests will have to be booked in advance via a portal that will go live on Thursday 11 February.
  • Any travelers testing positive for coronavirus will be required to quarantine for a further 10 days from the day the test was taken.
  • The existing test and release scheme will remain open for travelers arriving from non red list countries, but travelers choosing to use this scheme will still have to take Covid tests on days 2 and 8 following their arrival into the UK.
  • To help ensure that passengers comply with the new rules, legislation is being introduced to allow the government to levy fines and to seek prison sentences for serious offenders. Specifically, this is what the proposed penalties will look like:
    • A £1,000 penalty for any international arrival who fails to take a mandatory test
    • A £2,000 penalty for any international arrival who fails to take the second mandatory test, as well as automatically extending their quarantine period to 14 days
    • A £5,000 penalty (rising to £10,000) for arrivals who fail to quarantine in a designated hotel.
    • A prison sentence of “up to 10 years” for anyone who lies on the passenger locator form and tries to conceal that they’ve been in a country on the red list in the 10 days before arrival into England.
  • Carriers will be legally required to ensure that all passengers that they are transporting have taken and passed a pre-departure Covid test, have filled out the UK’s passenger locator form, and have signed up for any mandatory tests and quarantine arrangements before their passengers embark on their journey. Fines will be imposed on carriers failing to comply with their legal requirements.

The health minister said that further details of the hotel quarantine scheme will be published on Thursday 11 February.

Current Red List Countries

Travelers who have been in or through any of the countries listed below in the last 10 days will be refused entry to the UK unless they are  British or Irish Nationals or third-country nationals with residence rights in the UK. This list of countries is sometimes referred to as the ‘red list’.

Cape Verde
The Democratic Republic of the Congo
French Guiana
Portugal (including Madeira and the Azores)
South Africa
United Arab Emirates (UAE)


There’s actually quite a bit of good news here.

Firstly, it’s great to see that the UK government has decided not to do away with the ‘test to release’ scheme as was rumored by various media outlets over the weekend. As I pointed out yesterday, removing the option for visitors from non red list countries to end self-isolation early would have been a recipe for more people to ignore the quarantine rules entirely.

Secondly, it’s also great to see that government-supervised quarantine will cost as much as has been announced and not the paltry figure rumored just a few days ago. £1,750/person ($2,400/person) to be kept locked up in a hotel room for 10 days (at the very least) should be enough to make a lot of people stop and think before they decide to travel to the UK from one of the red list countries. It should also ensure that the cost of quarantine is fully covered by any arriving travelers and that the UK taxpayer isn’t left to foot the bill.

One oddity that I noticed in the Health Minister’s announcement was that he first said that travelers arriving from red list countries would be “escorted to a designated hotel” but then went on to say that there will be a penalty of up to £10,000 for “arrivals who fail to quarantine in a designated hotel”. If they’re being escorted to their quarantine hotel, how will passengers be able to avoid quarantine?

It sounds like the UK government hasn’t yet figured out how to ensure that all passengers arriving from red-list countries are “captured” at their port of arrival and, potentially, that could be an issue.

Overall, I have to admit to being a lot happier with what we’ve heard from the government today than I was expecting to be. The cost of the mandatory quarantine seems appropriate, the requirement for all arrivals in England to get multiple Covid tests in their first 8 days in the country seems fair, and the fines that the government says it plans to levy on rule-breakers should be considerably more painful than some of the other fines we’ve seen being handed out (frankly, they have been pathetically low). This is definitely one of the better moves the UK government has made in recent months.

Having said that, it’s also important to point out that if the aim of all these new measures is just to create a secure barrier against the importation of new strains of coronavirus, these measures don’t go far enough.

As someone who needs to travel for work (from time to time), I don’t want to see the UK close its borders or insist on mandatory hotel quarantine for all new arrivals any more than anyone else, but the fact remains that those two options are the only options that offer an effective way of preventing new strains of coronavirus from getting into the population. Partial measures such as selective hotel-quarantines won’t work.

As it is, the new coronavirus strains first detected in South Africa and South America are already in the UK, and given how bad a lot of UK residents appear to be at keeping to the current lockdown rules, it’s more than likely that these strains will spread rapidly in the coming weeks.

As good as it is to see the UK government finally taking some action on the borders, there’s a very good chance that, once again, it is acting well after the horse has bolted.

Bottom Line

The UK government has confirmed that mandatory-hotel quarantine for arrivals from red list countries will cost £1,750/person ($2,400/person) and that it is putting in place legislation that will allow it to levy fines on travelers flouting the new rules and to seek prison sentences for egregious rule-breakers. In addition, while the ‘test to release’ program will remain in place for travelers arriving from countries that are not on the red list, all travelers will now be required to take (and pass) a Covid test 2 days and 8 days after they arrive into the country.


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