Law firm to launch legal challenge to quarantine hotels

Eufemia Didonato

coach - Eddie Mulholland

coach – Eddie Mulholland

An international law firm is preparing to launch a legal challenge to the Government’s quarantine hotel policy, which came into effect today.

PGMBM believes that “the enforced quarantine of people without knowing whether they have Covid-19” is unlawful under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and should therefore be subject to judicial review.

Tom Goodhead, Barrister and Managing Partner of PGMBM criticized “policies which constitute extraordinary violations of traditional liberties and human rights”.

He stated: “It is time for lawyers to take a stand and ensure that the Government, which has shown scant regard for parliamentary scrutiny of Covid-19 legislation and regulations, is held to account.”

It comes as Heathrow Airport has warned of chaos at the border today that could lead up to 8,000 daily passengers queueing for five hours as a result of the new checks.

From today, arrivals into Britain from red-list countries are required to spend 10 days in a quarantine hotel at a cost of £1,750 per person. All other passengers must self-isolate at home for 10 days.

Scroll down for more of the latest.

02:00 PM

Covid testing requirement adds £840 to the cost of a family trip

Families will from today face an extra £840 added to the cost of an overseas holiday as the Government’s new testing requirements come into force.

Every arrival into the UK must now pre-book a testing package costing £210 per person for two tests, via the online booking portal; to be taken on the second and eighth days of their mandatory self-isolation.

This is in addition to the pre-existing requirement that travellers take a test prior to arrival. For a family of four, this puts the cost of a trip at well over £1,000, just for testing.

01:50 PM

Israel plans to reopen restaurants in March

Israel announced on Sunday it plans to reopen restaurants on March 9 and restart tourism with Cyprus as part of a gradual return to normality thanks to the early success of its COVID-19 vaccination campaign.

More than 41 per cent of Israelis have now received at least one shot of Pfizer Inc’s vaccine. Due to this, the country will partially reopen hotels and gyms on Feb 23 to those fully inoculated or deemed immune after recovering from COVID-19.

To gain entry, visitors will have to present a “Green Pass”, displayed on a Health Ministry app linked to their medical files. The app’s rollout is due this week.

The reopening of hotel dining rooms, restaurants and cafes will follow “around March 9”, said Nachman Ash, the national pandemic-response coordinator. “We want to open gradually, carefully so we don’t have another breakout of another wave, and another lockdown,” he told Ynet TV.

Israel began emerging from its third lockdown last Sunday, and on Monday, signed an accord with Greece to ease travel restrictions there on Green Pass-bearing Israelis. A similar deal is in the works with Cyrpus.

01:38 PM

Giles Coren: ‘A trip to Paris in the Nineties changed my life’

When broadcaster and food critic Giles Coren made an impromptu trip to Paris at the age of 21, his future was made.

It was September 1991, a few months after I had graduated, when I received a phone call from my girlfriend, whom I had been dating at university. She had gone to Paris to study and things weren’t going well for her. She was weeping as we spoke. With no job to tie me down (I couldn’t even get my old bar job back), I literally just put some stuff into a bag, ran down to the Tube and took a train to Dover, got on a ferry and then a train and was in Paris the next day.

Read the full story.

01:24 PM

Irish tourists ‘booking dental appointments in Tenerife’ to get around travel ban

Would-be tourists are getting around Ireland’s ban on holidays by booking dental check-ups on the Spanish island of Tenerife – currently one of the only permitted reasons to leave Ireland is for medical appointments.

The tactic was discovered after dozens of travellers presented letters detailing planned dental check-ups to border officials at Dublin airport. Dublin airport reported that up to 40 per cent of travellers to hot destinations were carrying these kinds of letters.

“We are used to Irish people coming for treatment but we thought it strange the number who are asking for written confirmation of their appointment, and then they are not turning up,” one receptionist, Roberta Beccaris of Clinica Dental, told RTE Radio 1. “Now we understand that it was just an excuse to come here for a holiday.”

Tenerife - Getty

Tenerife – Getty

Previously, if the check-ups are found to be false or unnecessary, these passengers would be charged an on-the-spot fine of up to €2,000. The response has now changed, however, since these reports emerged: Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said on Friday night,“we warn people that they may be prosecuted if they carry on with their journey and we don’t regard a dentist appointment in Tenerife as being reasonable.”

“We say: ‘That is not a reasonable grounds to travel and we are giving direction not to travel – if you continue on your journey, in effect, then you may have committed two different offences which will be dealt with by summons… people have actually turned back rather than be prosecuted and in effect have a criminal record and risk imprisonment or a suspended sentence, which is a far greater penalty than a fixed penalty notice.”

01:08 PM

The biggest unanswered questions surrounding hotel quarantine

The UK’s hotel quarantine scheme is now underway, but there are still many unanswered questions. Hazel Plush answers as many of them as possible.

What happens if my flight is cancelled? Will my pre-booked quarantine stay be refunded?

It’s a valid concern, especially given the high number of flight cancellations and disruption over the past 12 months. If you’ve booked your hotel quarantine but your journey is delayed or cancelled, who is liable for the cost?

We have asked the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) this very question, and are yet to receive a response.

Find the answers to more of your question here.

12:54 PM

I’ve been vaccinated – so where can I go on holiday this summer?

Chris Leadbeater explains everything you need to know about holidays after you’ve been inoculated, and shares 20 amazing trips for when we can travel.

How the tables turn. For much of the pandemic, it is the younger generations who have “enjoyed” the meagre silver linings of a bleak era – less prone to the worst of Covid-19, less fearful of the damage it can do. But as the vaccination process against the virus rolls out, the clouds are starting to part over a more “experienced” set of age groups. Not the twenty- and thirtysomethings who will have to wait their turn for a liberating jab in the arm, but those of a “finer vintage” who are already feeling the benefit of medical science.

Read the full article.

Greece has suggested it will open to vaccinated Britons this summer  - Getty

Greece has suggested it will open to vaccinated Britons this summer – Getty

12:42 PM

‘I had to cancel my £6,065 flights to Australia, and now my insurer won’t pay out’

Our consumer correspondent assists a reader who was unable to attend her son’s wedding.

On March 22 last year my husband and I were due to fly to Sydney, Australia to attend my youngest son’s wedding. We bought business class tickets with Malaysian Airlines (MAS) costing £6,065. Two days before departure, it became clear that we would not be able to travel. The UK was about to lock down.

However, MAS was still flying the route and, at that time, said our only option was to rebook the flights and travel before December 2020. There was no offer of vouchers. We felt we had no alternative but to cancel and make a claim on our Staysure travel insurance policy.

I phoned the airline and the sales agent said I would receive a refund of the tax element. Two credits of £291 from “Malaysia Ai Kuala Lumpur” appeared on my credit card statement on March 24. We have since been battling Staysure’s claims agents, ETI Services, to approve the claim. The problem is that MAS did not send us a cancellation invoice and I simply cannot get the airline to issue one. Can you help?

Read Gill Charlton’s response here.

12:28 PM

No plans for vaccine passports to go the pub, says Boris

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he has no plans to introduce so-called vaccine passports for activities like going to the pub, PA reports.

Speaking to the media from south London today, Mr Johnson said he imagines such schemes could be required for foreign travel, although he has no plans to introduce them for domestic activities, stating:I think inevitably there will be great interest in ideas like can you show that you had a vaccination against Covid in the way that you sometimes have to show you have had a vaccination against yellow fever or other diseases in order to travel somewhere.

I think that is going to be very much in the mix down the road, I think that is going to happen. What I don’t think we will have in this country is – as it were – vaccination passports to allow you to go to, say, the pub or something like that.

12:23 PM

Great British Getaways: 10 amazing UK cycling breaks for 2021

Majorca, the Dolomites and the south of France may be off the cards this summer. But how about an amble along the Greenwich Meridian or a crack at the gruelling North Coast 500?

Our cycling expert Simon Parker picks the best two-wheeled adventures in Britain, here.

cycling - getty

cycling – getty

12:15 PM

British citizen admits to breaking hotel quarantine to see fiancee

A British citizen could face jail sentences after breaking Singapore’s hotel quarantine in order to see his wife.

Nigel Skea will appear in court for sentencing on February 26 after he admitted to visiting Agatha Maghesh Eyamalai – who was his fiancee at the time – on three occasions at the Ritz-Carlton Millenia Singapore hotel.

hotel - ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP

hotel – ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP

On one of his visits, Skea, 52, climbed an emergency stairwell to spend nine hours with Eyamalai. Arrivals in Singapore currently have to spend 14 days in an assigned room as part of the country’s travel quarantine regime.

Prosecuting lawyers have asked for him to be jailed for four weeks and receive a fine of 1,000 Singapore dollars, while his defence lawyer has asked for a one-week jail term or fine. Eyamalai is also being represented by the same defence lawyer.

So far, no Britons have been jailed for breaking coronavirus rules in Singapore.

12:05 PM

‘Every extra week of delay costs countless more jobs’ – The Goring Hotel

Jeremy Goring, Chief Executive of London hotel The Goring, speaks out once again about the targeting of the hospitality industry, telling us:

Hospitality businesses really came to the party when the raft of health and safety measures were instigated to help slow the spread of Covid. Businesses really took it seriously and invested heavily in training and equipment. This is why government figures show that less than 3% of infections were coming from pubs, bars, cafés, restaurants and hotels when they were open.

But shutting the sector down twice and imposing unworkable restrictions has resulted in an estimated one million people losing their jobs.

Some of the restrictions are yet to be explained to us: The 10pm curfew which compressed customers and staff together on busy just public transport at 10.15 every night instead of allowing staggered and safe departures caused more infections while also costing livelihoods. Which common sense test was applied to that one?

Every extra week of delay, and every added restriction costs countless more jobs, it really is that simple.

12:00 PM

Law firm to launch legal challenge to quarantine hotels

An international law firm is preparing to launch a legal challenge to the Government’s quarantine hotel policy, which came into effect today. PGMBM believes that the policy is unlawful and should therefore be subject to judicial review.

It points out that Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) states that everyone has the right to liberty and security of the person, save for very specific circumstances. Such circumstances include “the lawful detention of persons for the prevention of the spreading of infectious diseases”.

However, PGMBM considers that the enforced quarantine of people without knowing whether they have Covid-19 could potentially constitute a breach of Article 5.

Tom Goodhead, Barrister and Managing Partner of PGMBM, said:

We wholeheartedly appreciate the seriousness of the pandemic, its impact globally and the efforts of governments and healthcare workers to tackle it. This does not, however, mean that policies which constitute extraordinary violations of traditional liberties and human rights should not face careful judicial examination.

It is time for lawyers to take a stand and ensure that the Government, which has shown scant regard for parliamentary scrutiny of Covid-19 legislation and regulations, is held to account.

Read more: For hotel quarantines to be lawful, the Government will need to answer some hard questions

11:50 AM

Schools: What can the UK learn from other countries?

Teaching establishments around the world are at different stages of being open for learning, writes Yolanthe Fawehinmi, who takes a look at what they’re up to, here.

11:40 AM

‘There is no argument for not opening after Easter at the latest’ – hotelier

The COVID Recovery Group of MPs is urging the Government to lift restrictions on UK hospitality by Easter. Dan Brod, who owns the Beckford Group, which operates four pubs with rooms in the south-west (The Beckford Arms, The Talbot Inn, The Bath Arms at Longleat and The Lord Poulett Arms), couldn’t agree more with their proposed plan of action.

He told Telegraph Travel:

Nearly 15m have been vaccinated so far and by Easter (at 400,000 a day) that would be over 30m with most vulnerable (over 70) having had two doses. Hospital occupancy is obviously falling and so if we are ever going to reopen (without waiting for absolutely NO risks) it seems that there is no argument for not opening (with continued Covid measures) after Easter at the latest.

There are still three policy decisions that need go with this: 1) does vat stay at 5%? 2) do business rates taper back? 3) are freeholders forced to make some sort of rent deal with hospitality tenants to cover the 7 months we have been shut?”

11:31 AM

Inside Heathrow’s quarantine hotel rooms

The first hotel quarantine guests have been bussed from Heathrow Airport and are now settling into the rooms they will stay in for the next 10 days. Here’s a peek inside the Novotel London Heathrow, one of the hotels to be hosting them…

hotel - PA

hotel – PA

hotel - PA

hotel – PA

lobby - PA

lobby – PA

11:20 AM

Italy cancels the reopening of ski resorts

Ski resorts in Italy have been dealt a last-minute blow as the Government further delays their reopening until March 5, reports Lucy Aspden.

Yesterday’s decision, which was announced in a statement from the health ministry, came just a day before some resorts were planning to reopen – last week the Italian Government gave resorts in regions classed as ‘yellow’ the permission to reopen.

The change of heart has been sparked by new data that has revealed the ‘British’ variant of coronavirus now represents, on average, 17.8 per cent of infection in Italy. Across the border in Austria, similar concerns over new variants, have forced the entire region of Tirol into lockdown.

Italian resorts have spent the last week preparing to reopen – they’ve been shut since November – with new rules, including a limit on the number of people allowed in gondolas, and safety measures being put in place.

They’ve now been left ‘disappointed’ and ‘speechless’ once again.

“We are disappointed. We think that the mountain deserves more respect,” read a statement from the resort of Livigno, which had hoped to welcome skiers for the first time this winter this morning.

“We are speechless because of the timing with which this communication came,” wrote the resort of Bormio, which had worked to reopen from Wednesday.

The Dolomiti Superski region covers a number of major resorts, such as Cortina d’Ampezzo and Alta Badia. A statement on its website shares similar disappointment, especially following the extensive work that has been put into reopening: “We are extremely sorry not to be able to give you any better information, also because all the Dolomiti Superski ski areas have been preparing with great care and commitment during all these months to minimize any risk connected with the Covid-19 contagion.”

11:12 AM

‘The uncertainty is emotionally brutal’ – travel operator

Speaking today about the ONS report that laid bare the impact of the pandemic on the travel industry, Jess Brooks, founder of tour operator, Eternal Landscapes:

It comes as no surprise that accommodation and travel agency businesses took the biggest hit to turnover during the first national lockdown. Within a matter of days, the sector was absolutely decimated. The pandemic has been financially catastrophic for the travel and tourism industry.

We’re a small specialist tour operator without stakeholders or investors so we have had a degree of flexibility but it has now been a full year without any income and our savings pot is empty. We’ve got nothing left.

The uncertainty is emotionally brutal and we cannot make plans as we have no way of knowing when and to what extent our business will return.

11:03 AM

Hancock explains how red-list arrivals are being kept away from others

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the hotel quarantine system for travellers arriving from “red list” countries has been operating “smoothly” since it came into force at 4am on Monday.

Asked on Times Radio how “red list” passengers are being prevented from mixing with other arrivals in airports, he said: “All of this has been clearly set out, and I’m glad to say that, as of 6.30am when I got my latest update, this is working smoothly.”

heathrow - Eddie Mulholland

heathrow – Eddie Mulholland

Pressed on the same question, Mr Hancock added: “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.

“So that’s all in training; there was a walkthrough of it yesterday and obviously it has been in place since four o’clock this morning.”

10:53 AM

SOS campaign demands the return of foreign holidays by May 1

Paul Charles, chief executive of The PC Agency has co-launched the SOS ‘Save Our Summer’ campaign, and is asking for public support:

10:42 AM

Young workers hit hardest by UK travel restrictions

A new ONS report has laid bare the devastating impact of lockdowns on the UK tourism industry.

The sector, which accounts for 6.7 per cent of the British economy, has been hindered by both internal restrictions as well as quarantine requirements that have prevented overseas travellers from visiting.

Arrivals by air fell from 6.8m in February 2020 to just 112,300 in April 2020, a fall of 98.3 per cent, and even over the summer, when restrictions were eased, just 20 per cent of rooms were occupied in London hotels compared with 90 per cent during the same period in 2019.

In the three months to June 2020, employment among accommodation providers fell by 21.5 per cent compared with the same three months of 2019, and in the wider tourism industry it is young people that have been hardest hit, with those aged 16 to 24 years the most likely to be made redundant.

10:37 AM

How long will the UK’s hotel quarantine policy last?

That’s the million-dollar question. We asked the experts last week – here’s what Saj Ahmad, Chief Analyst at StrategicAero Research, had to say:

These measures could well last several months, or even until next summer. The real challenge for mandatory hotel quarantines will ultimately be paced by vaccination rollouts from the countries where passengers are coming from.

Given that the UK is a prime business, tourist, and family-visit-orientated country which attracts millions of people from overseas each year, many of these nations are poorer and are much lower down the pecking order when it comes to vaccinations.

The fact that the UK never implemented hotel quarantines a year ago means everything is now in ‘playing catch up’ mode. With many parts of the globe not likely to see mass vaccinations until the wrong side of 2021, if they are lucky – and coupled with the UK not yet having even started mandatory hotel isolation, any lifting of this policy is unlikely to come before Q3 [July-September] next year.

Read more from other experts on the topic here.

10:31 AM

Matt Hancock: Vaccine certification may be ‘right way’ to have safe global travel again

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the Government is looking at how to ensure people in the UK can continue to travel if other countries choose to only allow visitors who have been vaccinated against Covid-19. He told Sky News:

Let me tell you exactly what the situation is. There are some countries around the world that are considering bringing in rules saying you can only travel if you have been vaccinated – these aren’t in place yet but there are countries who are actively floating this idea and proposing it.

In that case, it will be important for people from the UK to be able to show whether or not they have been vaccinated in order to travel, so we are working with countries around the world on the basis for this and how that vaccine certification can happen in a way that can be assured.

We want Brits to be able to travel to those countries and therefore enable Brits to be able to demonstrate their vaccine status, so that sort of vaccine certification is something we are talking to our international counterparts about and there are people who are arguing that is the right way to have safe global travel again because obviously that’s very restricted at the moment.

Greg Dickinson has more on how vaccine passports could open up travel, here.

10:20 AM

WHO: ‘Some sort’ of vaccine passport expected to be used in the future

The World Health Organisation special envoy for the global Covid-19 response, has said he expects “some sort” of vaccine passport will be introduced in future.

Dr David Nabarro said: “I am absolutely certain in the next few months we will get a lot of movement and what are the conditions around which people are easily able to move from place to place, so some sort of vaccine certificate no doubt will be important.”

He added that countries would only be able to form “bubbles” for travel purposes if they both had the same standards of coronavirus restrictions and similar levels of vaccination uptake.

Dr Nabarro told Sky News that transparency over Covid-19 measures between countries was key to keeping an eye out for new variants of the virus.

10:11 AM

New Zealand outbreak involved UK strain

A coronavirus outbreak that sent New Zealand’s biggest city into a snap lockdown over the weekend involved the more transmissible UK variant, health officials have confirmed; the first time the strain has been detected locally.

Auckland‘s nearly 2 million residents were plunged into a new three-day lockdown on Sunday after three new Covid-19 cases were detected in the city.

The restrictions will be reviewed tomorrow, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a news conference.

Ardern also said the first shipment of the COVID-19 Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine has arrived in New Zealand.

10:00 AM

Best Western or Barbados? The best holidays for £1,750, the same price as a quarantine hotel stay

Would you rather spend £1,750 on ten lonely nights locked inside a Novotel next to Heathrow Airport, or on a luxury escape for two in Barbados? poses Greg Dickinson, who has rounded up a tempting selection of holiday options for the same price as the Government’s grim hotel quarantine package.

You can find them here.

hotel - getty

hotel – getty

09:51 AM

Traffic down 70% at world’s busiest airport

Dubai International Airport saw the pandemic push passenger traffic down by an unprecedented 70 per cent in 2020 compared to the previous year, even as the airport held on to its prized title as the world’s busiest for international travel, its CEO announced today.

While the key east-west transit point started to see an uptick in traffic after long-haul carrier Emirates resumed its routes last summer, the airport’s 2020 passenger load of 25.9 million is still a trickle compared to 2019.

dubai - AFP

dubai – AFP

Meanwhile, the UAE is struggling with a major surge in cases, prompting countries to halt flights to Dubai.

The UK banned all direct flights to Dubai last month, freezing the world’s busiest international air route. London was ranked as the top destination city for Dubai’s airport last year, with 1.15 million customers.

Dubai International Airport surpassed London’s Heathrow as the world’s busiest airport for international traffic in 2014.

09:41 AM

More passengers enter quarantine from Heathrow

hotel - JULIAN SIMMONDS

hotel – JULIAN SIMMONDS

hotel - JULIAN SIMMONDS

hotel – JULIAN SIMMONDS

hotel - JULIAN SIMMONDS

hotel – JULIAN SIMMONDS

09:31 AM

The travel industry issues an ‘SOS’ appeal to the Government

In recent days, government ministers have done their best to torpedo the entire travel sector by telling UK citizens not even to book a holiday in the UK or abroad, write Paul Charles, chief executive of The PC Agency, and Henry Morley, chief executive of True Travel:

It is hard to think of a more damaging approach by Ministers who are elected to protect jobs and ensure economic growth. With their callous words, they have damaged their own careers as well as threaten up to 2.4million jobs at risk in the UK travel and tourism sector. Such is the outrage, we have created a far-reaching group in just three days called Save Our Summer.

This is an SOS from the entire travel sector – from aviation to tour operators, hotel groups to cruise lines – as the government appears to have no strategy for rebuilding and boosting the travel sector as we emerge out of lockdown.

The travel industry has often been split, with various lobby groups for aviation or travel agents alone. But the pandemic, and the damaging approach in recent days from ministers offering conflicting advice, has brought those of us responsible for growing travel together. An industry which employs more than 1 in 10 jobs in the UK and represents 10 per cent of our GDP has been pummelled from pillar to post in the last 12 months. Enough is enough.

Read the full story here.

09:30 AM

Scotland could close quarantine hotel loophole

All arrivals into Scotland will have to self-isolate for 10 days in a quarantine hotel, under new regulations taking effect today.

However, Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said on Sunday a “loophole” allowing overseas travellers to avoid hotel quarantine still exists which could “potentially undermine the public health approach here in Scotland”, PA reports.

Mr Matheson told the BBC’s The Sunday Show:

It is a loophole that has been created by the UK Government and its failure to take action on the basis of the clinical, expert advice that has been provided on this matter.The simplest and the safest approach to dealing with this is to have a comprehensive system in place.If the UK Government aren’t prepared to do that, we could resolve the issue by simply ensuring those who are transferring on to Scotland have to go to a quarantine facility near to the airport they arrive at in England.

Asked about the possibility of border checks, Mr Matheson said it would be “very challenging” to implement due to the number of vehicles travelling between England and Scotland.

09:21 AM

The UK’s red-listed countries

Here are the 33 countries from which arrivals must spend 10 days under guard in a quarantine hotel, starting today:

  1. South Africa

  2. DR Congo

  3. Tanzania

  4. Zimbabwe

  5. Botswana

  6. Eswatini

  7. Zambia

  8. Malawi

  9. Namibia

  10. Lesotho

  11. Mozambique

  12. Angola

  13. Rwanda

  14. Burundi

  15. United Arab Emirates (including Dubai)

  16. Mauritius

  17. Seychelles

  18. Portugal (including Madeira and the Azores)

  19. Panama

  20. Cape Verde

  21. Argentina

  22. Brazil

  23. Bolivia

  24. Chile

  25. Colombia

  26. Ecuador

  27. French Guiana

  28. Guyana

  29. Paraguay

  30. Peru

  31. Suriname

  32. Uruguay

  33. Venezuela

09:15 AM

What is it like to stay in hotel quarantine?

Airport hotels are the appetiser – or dessert – of a holiday; they certainly aren’t designed to be the main course, writes Lucy Aspden.

But from today Britons returning to the UK from 33 countries will have to pay £1,750 to quarantine in an airport hotel for up to 10 days.

The Radisson Blu at Manchester Airport is one such hideaway. Connected to the terminal and train station by a covered walkway it’s location couldn’t be any more convenient for passengers – making it an ideal candidate for the Government’s new scheme.

When you normally judge a hotel, the focus tends to be on the facilities available to you during your stay; the activities, the ambience, and the amenities. But with the leisure club, swimming pool, restaurant, bar and other communal areas closed to me on my one-night stay – as they would be were I actually quarantining – the four walls of my standard room were my only company. And it’s surprising how when you’re confined like this, you pick up on things you might have previously overlooked.

Read the rest here.

09:12 AM

In pictures: Passengers arriving into Heathrow this morning

It’s day one of Britain’s new border force rules. Here’s the scene at London Heathrow Airport…

heathrow - REUTERS

heathrow – REUTERS

heathrow - PA

heathrow – PA

heathrow - PA

heathrow – PA

heathrow - PA

heathrow – PA

09:04 AM

It’s a shambles’: Union criticises ‘rushed’ hotel policy

The GMB union has warned that its security guard members working in quarantine hotels are being put “at risk” by the Government’s “rushed policy”.

National officer Nadine Houghton said:

Once again, the Government’s rushed policy is putting staff at risk. Without working through the detail and listening to the voice of the workers delivering their policies, ministers risks failing at the first hurdle when trying to contain new variants.

The Government has given security companies less than 36 hours’ notice to put staff and plans in place to carry out this policy. It’s a shambles.

We will not sit back while our members are asked to do potentially unsafe work. There must be thorough negotiations on risk assessments and ensuring proper PPE is being provided. This isn’t just about the safety of workers, it’s about preventing new variants from spreading at a time when we are beginning to turn the tide on the virus.

09:02 AM

Commentary: First arrivals from red-list countries

Eleanor Steafel is at Heathrow airport for us for the first group of arrivals from “red-list” countries. Here is her commentary so far:

The first people returning to England from “red list” countries were taken to quarantine hotels at Heathrow Airport this morning.

Flanked by three security guards and led by a member of airport staff, eight passengers were met at customs and escorted to a shuttle bus which took them on to one of the quarantine hotels at Heathrow. They were led out via the main arrivals door, crossing paths with people entering the terminal.

The passengers are understood to have been grouped together at customs before being escorted to their bus. They could have landed on any of the flights that arrived this morning but are likely to have come in on connecting flights from Madrid or Doha, where people flying in from high-risk countries like Argentina or South Africa may have flown via.

All UK nationals or residents arriving back in England from high-risk countries will begin checking into government-designated accommodation as the hotel quarantine regime to prevent the spread of new coronavirus cases begins.

08:59 AM

Heathrow braced for quarantine chaos

Heathrow has warned of quarantine chaos that could lead to passengers queueing for up to five hours and flights being suspended as the Government’s new border controls come into force today.

The airport warned ministers the extra checks needed on arrivals and shortages of Border Force staff could “compromise” the safety of up to 8,000 passengers a day flying into Heathrow to quarantine either in Government-approved hotels or at home.

Border Force officials estimate the checks on whether passengers have come from one of the 33 red list countries and paid for their quarantine hotels and Covid tests could double the time taken to 15 minutes per arrival. E-gates have been shut because of the need for face-to-face checks.

Staff have already faced heavy queues in recent days after a surge in passengers arriving in efforts to avoid the 10-day enforced quarantine in hotels for which they have to pay up to £1,750 per person.

Our coronavirus live blog has more.

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