Mutant strains of the COVID-19 virus are forcing governments to revaluate their travel restrictions, and the United Kingdom is the latest to beef up border security.
U.K. officials on Wednesday (Jan. 27) announced a mandatory hotel requirement for nationals returning from “red list” countries.
British people returning from a high-risk country will be placed in a government-regulated facility, such as a hotel, for ten days, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.
The strict rules come as the U.K. enhances border controls to try and halt the spread of the coronavirus and variants of the disease, which has ravaged the region. Yesterday (Jan. 26), the U.K. announced 100,000 coronavirus deaths, becoming the first country in Europe to do so.
Travellers must pay
Under the new rules, non-U.K. residents will be refused entry, while British citizens and permanent residents will be picked up from the airport and transferred to their quarantine site.
Travellers will have to pay for their meals and hotel stay, which could end up costing several thousands of dollars.
"I want to make clear that under the stay-at-home regulations it is illegal to leave home to travel abroad for leisure purposes and we will enforce this at ports and airports by asking people why they are leaving and instructing them to return home if they do not have a valid reason to travel," said Prime Minister Johnson.
Those who wish to travel outside of the U.K. will be required to provide a declaration that states their trip is essential.
The “red list” of countries has yet to be released and the new rules may take a couple of weeks to kick in as hotels are reportedly still being prepared.
A sign of what’s to come?
The U.K.’s new travel rules may be a sign of what’s to come in Canada as the Trudeau government looks at new ways of strengthening travel restrictions and discouraging non-essential travel amid the pandemic.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to reveal new measures this week and the government unveiling a compulsory hotel quarantine is a real possibility.
Speaking to press on Monday, Trudeau said that “all options are on the table” as far as enhancing travel restrictions go.
“We will not hesitate to take tougher measures if and when they’re needed,” he said. “The bad choices of a few will never be allowed to put everyone else in danger.”
Trudeau has acknowledged that travel isn’t a super spreader for COVID-19 (just 1.8 per cent of all COVID-19 cases in Canada are connected to international travel, Ottawa says).
“We know that, right now, only a small proportion of infections are caused by Canadians coming back to the country,” Trudeau said. “That being said, let me be clear, every case is a case too many.”
Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau, in speaking with CBC, said the federal government isn’t ruling out invoking the Emergencies Act to further restrict non-essential travel.
The Emergencies Act gives cabinet the power to regulate or prohibit travel "to, from or within any specified area, where necessary for the protection of the health or safety of individuals."
"We are looking at all potential actions to make sure that we can achieve our aims. The Emergencies Act is something you don't consider lightly," Garneau said.
Trudeau has also said that he is looking at banning certain flights, “if necessary,” as coronavirus variants spread.
“These measures will make it more difficult for Canadians to come home after a trip,” Trudeau said last week at a media briefing.
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