All arrivals to the UK could face staying in new quarantine hotels under plans to reduce the transmission of new coronavirus variants from abroad.
Officials have been told to prepare to use facial-recognition and GPS technology in order to ensure people stay in isolation when they arrive in the country.
The plans go further than Boris Johnson‘s announcement on Friday from 4am on Monday all travel corridors will be suspended and anyone coming to the UK must have proof of a negative test in the previous 72 hours.
Visitors will have to pay for the hotel stays themselves under the proposed plans.
All arrivals to the UK could face staying in new quarantine hotels under plans to reduce the transmission of new coronavirus variants from abroad. Pictured: Travellers arrive at Heathrow Airport in London on Saturday
Civil servants were told to study New Zealand’s policy of ‘directed isolation’, reported the Sunday Times.
Arrivals are charged with stay at an airport hotel and forced to remain in isolation for two weeks in the country.
In Australia, travellers are charged between £1,500 and £2,500 for isolation hotel stays of between 14 and 24 days.
Civil servants also discussed Poland’s ‘enhanced isolation’ system, in which people are contacted daily and told to send a picture of themselves where they are isolating.
Officials have been told to prepare to use facial-recognition and GPS technology in order to ensure people stay in isolation when they arrive in the country. Pictured: Passengers at the Covid-19 testing centre in Heathrow Airport, London, on Saturday
The pictures are cross-referenced using GPS data and facial-recognition software and are visited by police within 20 minutes if they fail to comply.
Officials discussed the ideas at a meeting on Thursday and it is understood the technology would be confined to new arrivals, not anyone ordered to self-isolate in the UK.
The current regime announced on Friday in the UK means people arriving will still have to isolate for 10 days even if they have had a negative coronavirus test within 72 hours – or five if they have another negative result during that period.
The ban will be backed by tougher spot checks and will stay in place until at least February 15 as ministers and scientists work out how to manage the threat posed by mutations of the virus.
Yesterday it was revealed that 11 Britons have had one of the variants that have sprung up in Brazil – although it is not yet clear how much of a threat it poses.
Visitors to the UK will have to pay for the hotel stays themselves under the plans being considered. Pictured: Arrivals wearing PPE at Heathrow Airport, London, on Saturday
Travellers from South America, Portugal, some of central America and South Africa are already barred from coming to the country.
Earlier, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps defended the timing of the South America border ban amid complaints ministers have been ‘behind the curve’ responding to the threat of new Covid variants.
The ban also covers the Central American state of Panama and Portugal – due to its strong travel links with Brazil – and the former Portuguese colony of Cape Verde.
It applies to everyone who has been in the area over the past 10 days – although UK and Irish nationals are exempt – and came into force at 4am.
Two students landed at Manchester Airport with full PPE as they landed from their Dubai flight and are heading to York University
Scientists analysing the Brazilian variant believe the mutations it shares with the new South African strain are associated with a rapid increase in cases in locations where there have already been large outbreaks of the disease.
British and Irish nationals and others with residence rights are exempted from the measures that were backed by the Scottish and Welsh governments, though they must self-isolate for 10 days along with their households on their return.
Mr Shapps described the ban as a ‘precautionary’ measure to ensure the vaccination programme rolling out across the UK was not disrupted by new variants of the virus.
Asked if the Brazilian strain was currently in the country, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘Not as far as we are aware, I think, at this stage.
‘There haven’t been any flights that I can see from the last week from Brazil, for example.’