An announcement on mandatory hotel quarantine for some travellers is expected later today, a move that could deal a further blow to an already struggling tourism industry.
Home Secretary Priti Patel will make a statement in parliament about border restrictions, after senior ministers met on Tuesday to discuss whether quarantine should be required for all arrivals or only those from high-risk countries.
Travellers could be expected to pay to isolate in a monitored hotel with testing carried out during their stay, a system already used for international arrivals in Australia and New Zealand.
John Swinney, Scotland’s Deputy First Minister, said the Scottish government will “go at least as far” as any UK government announcement – with its own “additional supervised quarantine measures” if needed.
It comes after UK airline bosses wrote to Boris Johnson insisting there is not enough evidence that imposing hotel quarantines on all travellers arriving into the country is necessary.
The chief executives of British Airways, easyJet and Virgin Atlantic were among those who signed the letter to the prime minister which also called for support to help the industry survive.
Spokesperson at the Association of British Travel Agents Emma Brennan said the sector needs a “roadmap” for the months ahead.
She added: “Our call is for the government to consider the impact that this is going to have on the travel industry and the support that we need after a very difficult year and more difficult months ahead.”
There are already bans in place stopping most travel from areas where new variants of coronavirus have been detected. These restrictions bar direct flights but do allow for British nationals and residents to re-enter the country, providing they self-isolate on arrival.
All travel corridors have been closed, and people coming to the UK from abroad also have to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of their departure.
The Labour Party wants all arrivals to face mandatory quarantine in hotels to stop new variants entering the country.
Responding to reports that new restrictions would not apply to all travellers, the shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said: “If these reports are accurate, the government is leaving gaping holes in our nation’s defences against different strains of the virus emerging around the world.”