The first travellers required to stay at quarantine hotels have begun arriving at Heathrow Airport.

British and Irish citizens and UK residents who arrive in England after travelling from the government’s “Red List” of countries affected by COVID-19 variants must self-isolate in quarantine hotels from today. The measures came into effect at 4am this morning and affect arrivals who have visited a list of 33 countries in the past 10 days. The list includes Portugal, Brazil and South Africa.

Before returning to the UK, travellers must pre-book and reserve their room in advance using a government portal. Each passenger must pay £1,750 to spend 10 days in one of the government-approved hotels. The cost covers the hotel stay, transport and testing. Non-residents from Red List countries are currently barred from entering the UK.

The restrictions go further in Scotland where the mandatory hotel quarantine requirement applies to travellers from all countries, rather than just those on the Red List.

Separate channels for “Red List” airport arrivals

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told Times Radio the government had been working with airports and Border Force to prevent passengers from mixing with other travellers in airports.  “You go down a separate channel at the gates and, once you’ve been through the gates, which are manned by the Border Force, there is then a security operation supported by the police so that people are gathered, go and pick up their luggage and then go to the hotels.”

The BBC reports that more than 16 hotels have struck deals with the government so far with 4,963 rooms provided for the new quarantine system. A further 58,000 rooms are currently on standby. Those travelling from Red List countries to Wales and Northern Ireland will be required to book and pay for quarantine in England, as neither destination has any direct international flights.

Fines for failure to quarantine

Passengers failing to quarantine will face fines of £5,000 to £10,000, while anyone who lies on their passenger locator form about having been in a country on the red list faces a prison sentence of up to 10 years.

The new hotel-quarantine measures are in addition to a the start of a new testing regime for all travellers arriving in England, which requires two tests during the quarantine process.Travellers will be required to get tested on days two and eight of their 10-day quarantine period, whether they are isolating at home or in a hotel. The tests, conducted by NHS Test and Trace, will cost travellers £210.

Subscribe to the FINN weekly newsletter