No contracts have yet been signed with hotel chains to provide rooms for mandatory quarantine, with just seven days to go to the introduction of the scheme at UK ports and airports, Downing Street has revealed.
Measures announced last week will require an estimated 1,000 UK residents a day returning from coronavirus hotspots around the world to spend 10 days in isolation in hotels from 15 February.
But hotel groups have complained of a lack of communication from government and Labour denounced the scheme as “too little too late”, as it is due to come into effect around a month after the discovery of the virulent new South African variant of Covid-19.
Some 147 cases of the South African strain, which is thought to have some resistance to the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, have been uncovered in the UK.
Asked how many hotels were ready to receive travellers from the 33 hotspot countries, prime minister Boris Johnson’s official spokesman told a Westminster media briefing: “Last week, the Department of Health issued a commercial specification to hotels near ports and airports.
“This asked for proposals on how they could deliver and manage quarantine facilities. No formal contracts have been awarded yet.”
Countries covered by the quarantine hotel scheme include several South American and African countries where new Covid variants have been detected in large numbers of people. Foreign nationals are already covered by bans on travel to the UK from these areas.
Some senior figures in the travel industry have cast doubt on the government’s figure of 1,000 arrivals per day, suggesting that the 10-day warning appeared intended to persuade the vast majority of those who might be affected to travel before the 15 February deadline.
But Mr Johnson’s spokesman said he had no figures for numbers of people arriving back in the UK in time to beat the deadline.
Travellers staying in quarantine hotels will be required to pay for their own accommodation, with bills expected to amount to over £1,000.
Further details of the scheme will be announced later this week, said the PM’s spokesman.