Five-hour delays could await passengers travelling to England under the new hotel quarantine rules that came into effect in the early hours of Monday morning.
UK nationals or residents returning to England from 33 “red list” countries – comprised of hotspots with Covid-19 variants in circulation – will be required to quarantine in hotels for 10 days.
Anyone who has been in a high-risk destination will have to enter England through a designated port and have pre-booked a quarantine package to stay at one of the government’s managed quarantine facilities.
The Government has struck deals with 16 hotels so far, providing 4,963 rooms, with a further 58,000 rooms currently on standby, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said.
✈️ Hotel quarantine comes in today. Here’s how we understand it’ll work:
🛬Passengers arriving from 33 red list countries get off plane.
👮🏼♂️They are separated from other passengers at passport control, where security picks them up. This is where pinch point is likely to be.
— Paul Brand (@PaulBrandITV) February 15, 2021
A member of staff at the Renaissance hotel by Heathrow Airport said it was one of the new quarantine hotels but said she was unable to give details on the number of bookings or when passengers needing to isolate might arrive.
The hotel’s car park by its entrance was largely empty and the main doors closed on Monday morning.
At the nearby Marriott hotel, a member of staff said it was not a quarantine hotel and was only welcoming key workers.
Coaches were still arriving at the Radisson Blu Edwardian hotel throughout Monday morning. A security man has been posted at both the entrance and exit of the hotel’s driveway.
Travellers arriving from Monday onwards that have not visited a red list country must still quarantine for 10 days at home and complete two mandatory Covid-19 tests on the second and eighth day after arriving.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “As this deadly virus evolves, so must our defences. We have already taken tough action to limit the spread, protect people and save lives.
“With the emergence of new variants, we must go further. The rules coming into force today will bolster the quarantine system and provide another layer of security against new variants at the border.”
People must quarantine in the hotel room but exceptions allowing them to leave include the need for urgent medical assistance, to exercise or attend the funeral of a close family member.
The regulations state that leaving for these exceptional reasons should only happen if the person “has been given prior permission by a person authorised by the secretary of state for this purpose”.
People may only arrive into Heathrow Airport, Gatwick Airport, London City Airport, Birmingham Airport, Farnborough Airport or any military airfield or port, according to the legislation.
Passengers arriving into England face fines of up to £10,000 for failing to quarantine, and those who lie on their passenger locator forms face up to 10 years in jail, Mr Hancock announced earlier this week.
The cost for a quarantine hotel stay is £1,750 for a single adult.
On Saturday, Heathrow Airport said “significant gaps” remained in the hotel quarantine plan and a spokeswoman said it is yet to receive the “necessary reassurances” from the government.
On Sunday night, the Heathrow spokeswoman said: “We have been working hard with the government to support the successful implementation of the managed quarantine policy from Monday.
“Good progress has been made to address a number of issues. Queues at the border in recent days have been almost five hours and this is totally unacceptable.
“Border Force today have given us assurance that they will have resource and effective processes at the border to avoid compromising the safety of passengers and those working at the airport, which could necessitate the suspension of some arriving flights.”