UK Government-Supervised Quarantine Is Coming On 15 February (It’s A Mess)

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Update 9 February 2021: More details of the UK government’s mandatory hotel quarantine plan have now been released. Click here for more details.

The UK government has finally confirmed that it will be introducing its long-awaited supervised quarantine from 15 February. With just ten days to go to the implementation of this plan, you’d be forgiven for thinking that most of the details had been agreed and that the government was now just working through the finer points that need to be ironed out. Sadly and unsurprisingly, that’s not the case.

The Background

A couple of weeks ago, the sieve-like UK government started leaking information to the press about an impending government-supervised hotel quarantine scheme for international travelers, and rumors of an “Australia-like” solution were all over the front pages.

Last week, a few details of this quarantine idea were officially announced but the government still wasn’t in a position to confirm any concrete plans, and we were told that more details would be released this week.

Well, it’s now Friday of the week in which we were supposed to be hearing details of the government’s quarantine plan, finding out how it will work, finding out which hotels will be involved, and being told exactly how all the logistics will work, and yet none of that has yet been made public.

The reason why none of that hasn’t been made public isn’t that the government is playing its cards close to its chest, it’s that the government doesn’t know the answers to those questions itself.

What We Know

Who This Affects & For How Long

Contrary to the requests from the opposition parties and, if the rumors are to be believed, the wishes of the Home Secretary, the UK will not be imposing mandatory hotel quarantines on all international arrivals into the UK. Instead, a 10-day government-supervised hotel quarantine will be imposed on arrivals from what the UK is calling “red list” countries which, at the time of writing, include the following:

  • Angola
  • Argentina
  • Bolivia
  • Botswana
  • Brazil
  • Burundi
  • Cape Verde
  • Chile
  • Colombia
  • Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Ecuador
  • Eswatini
  • French Guiana
  • Guyana
  • Lesotho
  • Malawi
  • Mauritius
  • Mozambique
  • Namibia
  • Panama
  • Paraguay
  • Peru
  • Portugal (including Madeira and the Azores)
  • Rwanda
  • Seychelles
  • South Africa
  • Suriname
  • Tanzania
  • United Arab Emirates (UAE)
  • Uruguay
  • Venezuela
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe

Link to the UK government’s list of travel bans.

Travel from these countries is already banned for most people, so the only travelers likely to be affected by the new hotel quarantine rules are expected to be legal residents of the UK, or British/Irish nationals returning home who, for legal reasons, cannot be prevented from entering the country.

There will be no exceptions to this new quarantine policy and anyone subjected to the 10-day hotel quarantine will not be allowed to use the UK’s ‘Test To Release’ program to cut short their quarantine period.

Locations & Cost

Hotels around all the UK’s major airports will be needed for the purposes of the government-supervised quarantine, and the BBC has reported an “industry source” saying that the government is estimating quarantine costs (to be borne by the traveler) at just £80/night.

The Numbers

Documents seen by the BBC suggest that the UK government expects to see over 1,000 UK residents arriving back into the country every day and is making plans to reserve enough rooms (across the UK airport network) to house up to 1,425 newly arrived travelers per night.

That would suggest that at any one point in time, there could be up to 14,250 people in government-supervised quarantine (based on a mandatory stay of 10 nights).

The Issues

The biggest issue right now is that the government doesn’t appear to have a clue what it’s doing.

Rumors that the hotel quarantine rules would be introduced on 15 February emerged in the hours leading up to the government’s official announcement (if you ever need to know what the UK government plans to announce in the next few days, just read the newspapers) and it didn’t take long for the hospitality industry to weigh in.

Just yesterday, the UK Chief Executive of Best Western told BBC Radio 4 (and a variety of newspapers) that his chain had contacted the UK government on multiple occasions with an offer to help with the quarantine plans but had not received a response. Here’s what he had to say (courtesy of the Guardian):

“Other than very broad information about what timings they’re thinking about and who is handling it, we haven’t had any discussions at all. We have connections in Singapore and Australia and New Zealand who are doing this, that we could learn from and easily get on the phone and offer their support. We’re just surprised that we haven’t heard anything.

“We got the understanding that quarantine hotels was something going to be considered in the UK quite some time ago and we’re yet to understand exactly what protocols are required of the hotels.”

“I think, in any normal company, if you went out and announced a programme nationally and you hadn’t thought about how you were going to plan that and you hadn’t spoken to the people involved, I’m not sure I’d have a job.”

“To this day we simply haven’t heard anything, despite multiple offers. We’ve got all these contacts in other countries that have already rolled this out for some time. They could offer some really valuable support and we’re just kept in the dark.”

Best Western isn’t the only hotelier still in the dark.

Earlier today, The chair of the Manchester Hoteliers’ Association, Adrian Ellis, confirmed that 35 of its members convened a meeting yesterday ready to discuss any plans or proposals sent through by the UK government but, up until now, no information or requests have been forthcoming.

So far, none of the hotel chains have come out to say that they’re in talks with the UK government (that doesn’t necessarily indicate very much as they may prefer not to publicize the fact that their properties are being used in this way), but when a UK Foreign Office Minister was asked how many hotels the government had agreements with, the only reply he could muster was “I don’t have that detail at my fingertips”. You don’t have to be a political expert to know what that means.

Leaving aside the fact that the UK government doesn’t appear to have any deals in place with the hotel industry despite there being just 10 days to go before the hotels have to be ready to accept potentially infected travelers, there’s still no information available on who will be transporting the passengers, how they will be transported, or how they will be kept separate from any other arriving passengers who don’t have to go into hotel quarantine. There are no details at all.

When you take a look at all the information that has been officially announced it quickly becomes clear that beyond a draft idea of what the government would like to see implemented, there’s nothing concrete at all.

As if all of that wasn’t enough, we now come on to the rumored cost of the operation.

Bearing in mind the following…

  • Travelers in hotel quarantine will have to be transported to their accommodation
  • Travelers are expected to be served 3 meals a day (with hot and cold options)
  • Tea, coffee, fruit, and water will be available on demand
  • Every hotel will have security patrols (both inside and outside) to ensure that the quarantine isn’t broken

…how is the government coming up with a cost of just £80/person/night?

We’re told that it will be travelers who pick up the bill for all the costs, but we also know that governments are almost always staggeringly bad at negotiating deals with the private sector (this government is particularly bad), so it’s hard to have any faith that all the costs needed to cover a traveler’s 10-night stay will be covered by just £800.

Either travelers are going to be hit with a noticeably higher bill or the taxpayer will have to cover the shortfall.

Bottom Line

I’ve said it before so I may as well say it again: Throughout the pandemic, this has been a government that has been late to act on pretty much everything other than the vaccine rollout (which, admittedly, appears to be going very well), and this is just another example of staggering incompetence at the very highest level. Most people showing this degree of ineptitude in the private sector would have lost their jobs months ago.

Be warned – this isn’t the last we’re going to hear of the chaos that is surrounding the UK government’s planned hotel quarantine scheme, and it’s probably only going to get worse. Expect to hear of hotels not being ready to accept guests, passengers evading quarantine because procedures weren’t in place, poor conditions because the government failed to put proper checks in place, and a whole lot more.

Worst of all, expect the taxpayer to end up footing at least part of the bill because there’s no way this is being implemented for just £80/person/night.


  1. What a mess! I’m brazilian and I came to England in December with my negative covid test done. To me would be financially impossible to pay “only” £80 per day to be in quarantine and doesn’t have logic if I took the test and jump on a plane after it. The pound currency in my country runs around R$ 7,40 a pound! “Only” £800 would cost more than R$ 6000,00 to a Brazilian person… In a case of emergency what should we do?
    I understand that will be great for the economy but not fair for those who came for other countries.

    • As things stand, this wouldn’t affect most Brazilians as unless they’re legal residents of the UK they’re not allowed to fly from Brazil to the UK in the first place.

  2. Yes! I can understand Lana. I’m argentinian legal residents in the UK. I’m waiting to visit my family in Argentina. But It isn’t possible that K need more money to paid the hotel quarantine than in my flight. Doesn’t make sense considering I am living and travel with husband (same situation). We could do self-isolation in our home after travel perfectly. Of some ome ask me.. I prefer the police in my door or a gps bracelet, but not the hotel quarantine it’s more healthy and clean always ‍♀️

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