Covid-19: New UK hotel quarantine plan
Foreign Office minister James Cleverly has defended the government's plan to quarantine travellers in hotels, which begins on 15 February.
Arrivals from Covid variant hotspots will have to stay in a hotel for 10 nights.
Mr Cleverly said he did not know how many hotels had signed up yet.
Labour said the scheme should be extended to all international travellers - not just some countries.
The hotel quarantine requirements are being introduced in an effort to control the spread of new variants of coronavirus first identified in South Africa and Brazil, which scientists believe may be more infectious and may reduce the effectiveness of vaccines.
The rules affect UK residents and Irish nationals travelling from 33 countries on the "red list" - which covers much of South America, southern Africa, the United Arab Emirates and Portugal.
Non-UK travellers from these locations are currently banned from entry anyway, so that is why they are not - at this time - affected by the quarantine plan.
Hotels near airports including Heathrow, Gatwick, London City, Birmingham, Bristol, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen are expected to be booked up for quarantine.
The government said it is working "at pace" to secure the rooms it needs and has had discussion with more than 60 companies in the hotel and travel industries.
"In the face of new variants, it is important that the government continues to take the necessary steps to protect people and save lives," a Department of Health and Social Care statement said.
Quarantined travellers will be served three meals a day in their rooms, with hot and cold options. Tea, coffee, fruit and water will be available.
The hotels would also be required to work with government-approved security staff, according to documents seen by the BBC.
These security guards will patrol inside and outside the hotel to "prevent unauthorised access". Anyone wanting to smoke outside or get fresh air will also be escorted by security staff.
An industry source said the government estimated quarantine could cost about £80 a night.
"If they are taking rooms for 1,425 [newly-arrived] passengers per night until 31 March, that is a bill of £55m," the source added.
Hotels 'waiting to hear'
But many hotels have said they are waiting to hear more details from the government about how it will work.
The chair of the Manchester Hoteliers' Association, Adrian Ellis, said some hotels "would be interested".
"We had a meeting yesterday with about 35 members attending. We are waiting to hear - normally it would come from UK Hospitality - the guidelines, but unfortunately nothing has been received as of now," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
"We understand what we can read in the media... but as of now we don't know which hotels are assigned and we don't know how the rules will work."
Asked how many hotels had signed up, Foreign Office minister Mr Cleverly said: "I don't have that detail at my fingertips."
Speaking to BBC Breakfast, he added: "The announcement only came out at one minute past midnight this morning so it is unsurprising that no one has formally signed up to this. But the whole point of this is that we give the hotels notice."
Documents suggest ministers expect more than 1,000 UK residents a day to return from places where new variants are prevalent.
"We're planning for capacity greater than the expected numbers of people arriving from those countries," said Mr Cleverly. "Ideally, what we are trying to do is limit as much as possible the number of people who are arriving from those countries."
When asked why the policy did not apply to all UK arrivals, Mr Cleverly told the Today programme the logistics would be "difficult to implement" and would mean imposing hotel quarantine on people arriving from low-risk countries.
Posted on Feb 05, 2021.