Priti Patel set to unveil limited quarantine scheme

Ministers are expected to unveil the targeted use of quarantine hotels as they tighten the UK’s borders amid fears over new strains of coronavirus.

The new rules will be set out by the home secretary, Priti Patel, in the House of Commons on Wednesday.

Keir Starmer has called for it to be made compulsory for every traveller arriving in the UK to quarantine in a hotel.

He said that tough decisions had to be taken now including “how we deal with the variants that are coming across the world and particularly how we secure our borders”.

Sir Keir added: “It’s very clear that we need to have quarantine comprehensively, in hotels, for everybody coming into the country, we need much stronger defences at our borders. We were one of the slowest countries to take any measures on our borders.”

The new restrictions are expected to affect British travellers coming from a number of countries where new variants of the disease have been identified, such as South Africa.

Travellers who are not UK residents are already banned from making the journey to Britain from those countries.

It is thought the scheme could be expanded if necessary.

Some minsters are fearful more deadly strains could emerge and spread to the UK before they are identified.

Ireland has announced that all travellers coming into the country will be subject to mandatory quarantine, either at home or in a hotel.

Scotland’s deputy first minister, John Swinney, has pledged that the Scottish government will go “at least as far” as its Westminster counterparts on travel restrictions.

Mr Swinney also called for more support for the aviation industry, which will be further hit by the new rules.

The travel industry itself has warned of any tightening of the border would have a devastating effect on business.

The Airport Operators Association and Airlines UK said that introducing tougher rules would be “catastrophic”, and that the UK already had “some of the highest levels of restrictions in the world”.

Industry body the World Travel and Tourism Council has estimated that hotel quarantines could cost the UK economy nearly £548m per day, because of lost journeys.

But vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi has warned the country must be “very careful” as new strains emerge.

Labour’s shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said a limited approach would be “half-baked” and leave “gaping holes in our nation’s defences against different strains of the virus emerging around the world”.

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