British holidaymakers returning home won’t escape an order to quarantine in airport hotels – signalling the death knell for summer getaways.
Ministers are finalising plans to force travellers to isolate for ten days as soon as they enter Britain, with details to be decided tomorrow.
Boris Johnson had wanted to exempt British residents and only target those arriving from places where new strains of the virus have been detected.
But Cabinet sources last night said they expect the Prime Minister to sign off on a comprehensive proposal – modelled on Australia – that will see all arrivals sent to airport hotels, regardless of their nationality and where they have come from.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak is understood to have backed the hotel quarantine scheme after previously favouring a more nuanced approach.
His support will no-doubt put pressure on the PM, who is gradually being ‘more swayed’ by calls for harsh action to avoid jeopardising the vaccine rollout, The Times reports.
The scheme would mean people who live in Britain will face having to pay extra, on top of the cost of their trip, to spend their quarantine period in a hotel patrolled by security guards.
Any new restrictions would be a further blow to the beleaguered travel industry – and could spark chaos at airports already battling through new arrivals checks.
Queues of people were seen waiting to clear passport control on Friday and Saturday while Border Force agents checked each person’s locator form and negative PCR test.
In another Covid news day:
- The UK reported a further 30,004 Covid cases, down almost a quarter on last Sunday, and 610 more deaths today;
- It was another record day for vaccinations with 491,970 first doses and 1,043 second doses;
- Mr Hancock revealed that as of this morning three quarters of the over-80s have been vaccinated;
- The UK has detected 77 cases of the South African variant of Covid and nine cases of one of the Brazilian variants;
- Nicola Sturgeon faces fury for ramping up her independence drive during the pandemic as she threatened to hold a referendum without Boris Johnson’s agreement – and SNP MPs said they are ‘focused on undermining the union’;
- Nursing leaders have called for higher-grade face masks to be given to staff to protect them against highly transmissible strains of coronavirus.
British holidaymakers will be forced to isolate for ten days as soon as they enter Britain under new plans being drafted by ministers. Pictured: Passengers wait in queues at Heathrow Airport
Boris Johnson had wanted to exempt British residents but Cabinet sources last night said they expect the Prime Minister to sign off on a comprehensive proposal
Blasting the hotel quarantine move, Paul Charles, chief executive of travel company The PC Agency, told the Mail: ‘This is destroying confidence among holidaymakers.
‘People are not booking summer holidays because they don’t believe there is an end game which will see these blanket measures removed.
‘This is a sure-fire way of destroying Britain’s aviation and travel industries.’
It came as Matt Hancock ramped up the Cabinet war over border restrictions last night as he suggested a blanket ban on all arrivals may still be needed.
The Health Secretary warned it is ‘absolutely critical’ Britain is protected from new mutant strains of the virus that might not respond to the vaccine.
Mr Hancock, who is one of the ministers who has been pushing for stronger measures, yesterday said that all 77 cases of the South African coronavirus variant detected in the UK have been linked to travellers.
The plans will see all arrivals sent to airport hotels, regardless of their nationality and where they have come from. Pictured: Beach goers enjoy the sunshine at Nova Icaria beach in Barcelona amid the coronavirus pandemic
Matt Hancock warned it was ‘absolutely critical’ Britain was protected from new mutant strains of the virus
Saturday alone saw 491,970 people get their first dose and 1,043 get their second, the highest daily figures recorded so far
A further nine cases of the Brazilian variant have also been picked up here but, again, none were linked to community transmission.
The Health Secretary said the new strains ‘I really worry about’ are the ones that have not yet been spotted, as he suggested measures targeted only at people arriving from specific areas would not be enough.
Ravers fined thousands over illegal bashes
Hundreds of partygoers were fined at the weekend after hiding in closets and even a tent in a bid to escape officers.
Scotland Yard handed out more than £15,000 in fines after 300 people were caught breaking Covid rules at an east London rave underneath a railway arch at 1.30am yesterday.
Organisers had padlocked doors from the inside to prevent officers gaining entry, with dozens scaling fences to dodge police.
A total of 78 people were issued with £200 fixed penalty notices for attending the illegal gathering.
It comes after the Met revealed on Saturday that two officers were injured as they broke up a 200-strong party in Beauchamp Place near Harrods at about 3.30am on January 1.
In Birmingham, police found revellers in cupboards when they broke up a party attended by over 50 students on Friday. And Lincolnshire Police fined eight campers from different households partying in a one-man tent in Woodhall Spa.
Asked whether there should be an absolute blanket ban on people coming into this country, Mr Hancock told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme: ‘We have got to have a precautionary principle.
‘We’ve introduced pre-departure testing… but it is absolutely vital that we protect this country from a new variant that may not be as well dealt with by the vaccine. We cannot risk the progress that we’ve made.’
Appearing on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, he added: ‘The argument has changed and the conversation around borders has changed because of two things.
‘One, the new variants and two, the success of the vaccine rollout programme, which means that we cannot put all of this progress at risk.’
Mr Hancock suggested that the public would not be issued with vaccine passports for use at home, but appeared to concede that they may be needed in future for overseas travel.
Meanwhile, Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy said yesterday that Labour had been ‘pushing the Government to take tougher measures at the border since last spring’.
She told Marr: ‘Scientists tell us that there are a number of countries where these strains are emerging that just simply do not have the capacity to map what is happening.’
A poll of 1,109 adults by Opinium on behalf of campaign group One Rule For Them last night showed 79 per cent think there should have been stricter border controls far earlier.
Ministers hope the new move will improve compliance with existing quarantine rules.
In a bid to tighten up restrictions, everyone arriving in the UK must have a negative PCR test and a completed passenger locator form.
But checking the required documents has caused huge delays at passport control – with hundreds of travellers – including children and the elderly – waiting in lines.
Witnesses said the queues took at least an hour to clear on Saturday as Border Force made their checks.
The Home Office has insisted they have ‘the necessary staff’ needed to get through the hoards of passengers – and claim it is ‘ultimately up to individual airports to ensure social distancing on site.’
Travellers returning to the UK have blasted long queues (pictured on Saturday) at Heathrow passport control as the airport claims it ‘isn’t possible’ for people to socially distance in its terminals
But Heathrow Airport said Border Force are responsible for the checks, and claim ‘social distancing in an airport environment isn’t really possible’.
Sharing a picture of the queues at Heathrow Airport on Saturday, Rav wrote: ‘I’m predicting a good hour to get through the UK Border at Heathrow this morning. E-gates offline, presumably for Covid tests and passenger locator form checks.’
Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis also shared a picture of the busy passport control area in Heathrow Airport- which she later deleted.
The caption read: ‘200 plus British passport holders queuing to get home (in constricted space).’
Shocking images shared to social media on Saturday showed hundreds of travellers – including children and the elderly – waiting in lines
Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis shared a picture of the busy passport control area in Heathrow Airport (pictured) – which she later deleted
The caption read: ‘200 plus British passport holders queuing to get home (in constricted space)’
In response to mounting concern over the large queues, a Heathrow Airport spokesperson told Sky News: ‘We’ve been clear since last May that social distancing in an airport environment isn’t really possible.
‘To put that in context, if you had one aircraft of let’s say 300 people, you’d need a queue about 1km long to socially distance just one aircraft, which is why last summer we mandated face coverings in the airport.’
A Government spokesperson earlier said: ‘We are in a national lockdown to protect the NHS and save lives. People should not be travelling unless absolutely necessary.
The social media star, who runs ‘Shape Up With Sher’ in Sunderland, has been sharing glamorous, sunshine-filled content with her Instagram followers as she enjoyed relaxed restrictions in the United Arab Emirates
‘You must have proof of a negative test and a completed passenger locator form before arriving.
‘Border Force have been ramping up enforcement and those not complying could be fined £500.
‘It’s ultimately up to individual airports to ensure social distancing on site.’
Heathrow said that ‘Border Force is currently experiencing some delays’ getting through the passenger checks, and the airport has measures to remind people of what rules are in place.
The Health Secretary today blasted holidaymakers for having ‘parties in Paris’ and ‘weekends in Dubai’ amid the UK’s Covid-19 international travel ban.
On Sunday, he reinforced the Government’s rule that international travel should not be happening unless it was ‘absolutely necessary’.
Many UK celebrities and social media stars have descended on Dubai and the Caribbean over recent months, escaping stringent lockdown measures at home, with many maintaining their trips were for business purposes.
Speaking on the BBC yesterday, Mr Hancock reiterated: ‘International travel, right now, should not be happening unless it’s absolutely necessary.
‘No parties in Paris or weekends in Dubai. That is not on and in most cases it’s against the law.’
Mr Hancock gave a ‘medical emergency’ as one example where travelling abroad would be deemed acceptable.
He quickly added: ‘Although frankly, with the NHS, you’ve got the best medical services you can possibly have in the world, right here in Britain.’
But a fitness influencer who escaped the third lockdown to work in Dubai hit back at those who have slammed other social media stars for doing the same.
A fitness influencer who escaped the third lockdown to work in Dubai has hit back at those who have slammed other social media stars for doing the same.
Personal trainer Sheridan Mordew, 24, from Sunderland, arrived in Dubai on January 2, just a few days before the third national lockdown, and planned to film live workouts to inspire her clients back home in the UK.
Personal trainer Sheridan Mordew, 24, arrived in Dubai on January 2, just a few days before the third national lockdown, planning to film live workouts to inspire her clients back home in the UK
Since then, the social media star, who runs ‘Shape Up With Sher,’ has been sharing glamorous, sunshine-filled content with her Instagram followers as she enjoyed relaxed restrictions in the United Arab Emirates.
Sheridan flew from Manchester with initial plans to stay for two weeks but now aims to be there until the end of March in the hope that things will be better when she returns.
‘I was doing classes in my garden during the first lockdown,’ she explained. ‘I was doing the live workouts but then when the second lockdown hit, I couldn’t do anything other than the live stuff. So I just thought, ‘Why not go to Dubai?’
‘I was already doing the live workouts from home but I knew I could do it from Dubai. It didn’t matter where in the world I was.’
Sheridan initially travelled to Dubai in December for eight days and returned home before travelling back out in January.
She is currently staying in an apartment where she is filming regular live workouts for clients back home and says she has funded the trip herself.
The fitness fanatic said: ‘Other personal trainers might not necessarily jump on a plane to Dubai to promote themselves. They might do things in the house and take photos in the mirror. There is not much you can do.
‘So I thought: ‘How can I get clients in my area that will benefit myself by getting business?’ Mental health and physical things aside, booking a trip to Dubai is business.
Sheridan says that those who criticise may not understand the industry and the need to be in such locations to sell products, such as bikinis and clothes
‘That is how I can increase my clientele so when I come back at the end of March, when gyms start to reopen, I am pretty confident in knowing that I can carry on the online stuff when I am back in the UK.’
Since then the fitness star has seen her number of clients increase and believes being in Dubai has helped to motivate and inspire those who take part.
‘Because I am in Dubai, it motivates them as well,’ she explained. ‘A lot of girls are like, ‘Oh my god! You are such an inspiration being in the sun when everyone else is stuck in the house.’
‘Sometimes, I feel guilty and feel like I shouldn’t really be out here because it is unfair on everyone else but then, at the end of the day, they could have gone out as well.’
- Israel is ‘closing the skies’ to prevent a fast-spreading or vaccine-resistant form of Covid entering the country. The measure was due to last until January 31, when its national lockdown is set to be eased.
Pubs and restaurants could stay shut until JULY as councils are given power to extend lockdown rules
By James Robinson for MailOnline
Pubs and restaurants could stay closed until July after Government chiefs chose to extend the lockdown powers given to councils.
The specially-created powers, which give local authorities in England the ability to close venues and tape-off public areas due to coronavirus, were due to expire next week.
But in a blow to millions of Britons hoping for a summer of reduced restrictions, Government chiefs have now extended the laws until mid-summer, reports the Daily Telegraph.
The move does not mean lockdown has been extended. But it does mean the powers are in place should the Government decide to push back its current lockdown timetable.
Boris Johnson set a mid-February target for lifting restrictions when announcing the third-national lockdown earlier this month.
But the Prime Minister appeared to pour cold water on hopes of a mid-February easing of lockdown earlier this week, by saying it was ‘too early to say’ when restrictions could be lifted.
Meanwhile, Downing Street refused to rule out the possibility of the current lockdown stretching beyond the spring and into summer.
The remarks came after frustrated Tory backbenchers called on the Government to release its road-map out of lockdown – as the UK’s vaccine roll-out total hit more than five-million.
The specially-created powers, which give local authorities in England the ability to close venues such as pubs (pictured: Library image) and tape off public areas, were due to expire next week.
The move does not mean lockdown has been extended, but means the powers are in place should the Government decide to push back its current timetable. Pictured: A set of taped-off benches outside a pub in London
Boris Johnson (pictured) had previously said he was hopeful that lockdown rules in England would last until mid-February when announcing the third-national lockdown earlier this month
The latest development has caused further frustration among Tory MPs in the 70-strong Coronavirus Recovery Group (CRG) – which argues lockdown measures should only be used where absolutely necessary.
What are the council Covid powers and why have they been extended?
The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No.3) Regulations 2020 were created in July last year.
The purpose of the law is essentially to delegate powers to local authorities across England so they can enforce Covid rules.
Among the powers include allowing council officials to close hospitality venues, including pubs and restaurants, as well as gyms and outdoor spaces.
The law can also be used to prohibit events.
The law also includes the power for local authority officials to fine those who do not comply.
The powers were due to expire next week, but have now reportedly been extended until July.
Though this does not mean lockdown has been extended, the Government now has the powers in place should it decide to lengthen the lockdown.
Tory MP Mark Harper, who leads the group, told the Telegraph: ‘The extension of councils’ Covid powers until July will be of great concern to those worried about their jobs and businesses.
‘Once the top four risk groups have been vaccinated and fully protected by March 8, assuming the Government hits the February 15 deadline, the Government must start easing the restrictions.
‘Vaccinations will of course bring immunity from Covid, but they must bring immunity from lockdowns and restrictions too.’
Earlier this week Mr Harper had called on the Government to begin lifting the lockdown no later than the start of March.
He also called for the publication of a timetable to prevent further slippage.
Mr Harper said: ‘People must see light at the end of the tunnel and feel hope for the future and businesses need to be able to plan our recovery.’
Government scientists earlier this week urged ministers to delay the reopening of pubs and restaurants until at least May to prevent another wave of the virus. Whitehall sources suggested schools could remain shut to most pupils until after Easter.
Ministers met earlier this week to discuss draconian travel curbs aimed at keeping out mutant Covid strains but which could also wreck the summer holiday plans of millions of families.
Priti Patel on Friday said it was ‘far too early to speculate’ about whether foreign holidays would be possible this summer.
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of the UK Hospitality trade body, said many pubs and restaurants would ‘struggle to survive’ if they were forced to keep their doors closed until May.
She added: ‘If we are forced to wait for a longer period then unfortunately there will be very little left of the hospitality sector – and the 3.2million people who work in it – to reopen at that point in May.’
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of the UK Hospitality trade body, said many pubs and restaurants would ‘struggle to survive’ if they were forced to keep their doors closed until May. Pictured: A man walks past a closed pub in east London
Blinds cover the windows of a pub, temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, near Anfield stadium, in Liverpool, on January 17, 2021
In recent weeks, the Prime Minister has repeatedly spoken of a return to normality this spring.
Last month he said: ‘We’re no longer resting on the mere hope that we can return to normal next year in the spring but rather the sure and certain knowledge that we will succeed.’
But asked directly whether the country was ‘looking at summer rather than spring’ for an easing of lockdown earlier this week, he replied: ‘I think it’s too early to say when we’ll be able to lift some of some of the restrictions.’
The PM said the new variant of the disease ‘does spread very fast indeed’, adding: ‘It unquestionably will be a very tough few weeks ahead.’
No10 also refused to rule out an extended lockdown when asked to clarify Mr Johnson’s remarks.
Asked directly whether he could rule out the lockdown lasting into the summer, the PM’s official spokesman said: ‘We will continue to keep all of the scientific evidence and data under review.
MELTDOWN IN THE HIGH STREET
The embattled high street will shed 200,000 jobs in 2021 as shops close at a rate of 380 every week, experts warned yesterday.
The Centre for Retail Research said retail will endure its worst year in a quarter of a century as tax breaks and Government support are withdrawn and the impact of the lockdown bites.
The dire warning would mean that the next 12 months are even worse than 2020, which saw 16,130 shops close, or 310 every week.
The retail industry employs around three million people. Shops are fighting to protect themselves from a mountain of rent and business rates costs, even as high streets remain shut. With scientists warning yesterday that much of the high street may have to wait until May before it can reopen, industry groups fear this would decimate the retail and hospitality sector. They had hoped shops would reopen sooner given the Government plans to vaccinate the most vulnerable groups by the middle of next month.
Footfall is not expected to recover on high streets for up to two years. Professor Joshua Bamfield, head of the CRR, said: ‘All sorts of damage was done last year which carries over to this year. You could argue 200,000 job losses is an underestimate.’
‘It remains our position that we want to ease restrictions as soon as it is safe to do so, but in order for us to do that we need to see the transmission rates of the virus come down and we need to see the pressure on the NHS reduce.’
A Government source insisted that the PM’s comments did not amount to a change in the timetable for easing the lockdown.
‘People should not read too much into this,’ the source said. ‘The PM wants to reopen as quickly as we safely can, but cases are very high and only coming down slowly – there has to be a degree of caution.’
Former Tory chief whip Mr Harper said the public now needed a timetable for easing the lockdown.
Mr Harper, chairman of the Covid Recovery Group, said achieving the Government’s target to vaccinate the 15million most vulnerable by February 15 should clear the way for restrictions to be lifted three weeks later when the vaccines had taken effect. ‘Covid causes serious harm and it’s vital we control it effectively,’ he said. ‘But this cycle of lockdowns and restrictions cause immense damage too – to people’s health, livelihoods and businesses.
‘Once the top four risk groups have been vaccinated and fully protected… the Government must start easing the restrictions.’ But Government scientists and health chiefs warned it was much too soon to even contemplate easing restrictions.
Dr Vin Diwakar, medical director for the NHS in London said the pandemic was ‘the biggest health emergency to face this country since the Second World War’.
Rounding on those still flouting the lockdown rules, he told a Downing Street press briefing: ‘For me and my colleagues in the NHS breaking the rules…. is like switching on a light in the middle of the blackout in the Blitz.’
And Dr Marc Baguelin, of Imperial College London, who sits on a sub-group of the Government’s Sage committee, said the early opening of the hospitality sector would lead to a rise in Covid cases. He told BBC Radio Four’s World at One programme: ‘Something of this scale, if it was to happen earlier than May, would generate a bump in transmission, which is already really bad.’
77 cases of South African Covid variant have been found in UK (and nine of a Brazilian mutant) – as experts warn new vaccines might be needed EVERY year
By James Tapsfield, Political Editor For Mailonline
The UK has identified 77 cases of South African coronavirus variant and nine of a Brazilian mutant, it was revealed today – amid warnings the virus is changing so fast new vaccines might be needed every year.
Matt Hancock said the cases were being kept under ‘very close observation’ stressing that they appeared to be linked to travellers – amid a Cabinet row over how to tighten border rules.
‘They are under very close observation, and we have enhanced contact tracing to do everything we possibly can to stop them from spreading,’ the Health Secretary said.
The figures emerged as Professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chair of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said the country will need to ‘get used to’ living with coronavirus.
Professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chair of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said the country will need to ‘get used to’ living with coronavirus
Infections in the UK spiked after a more transmissible variant was identified in Kent
Matt Hancock said the cases were being kept under ‘very close observation’ stressing that they appeared to be linked to travellers
Hancock pushes for tougher border rules
Matt Hancock today fuelled Cabinet tensions over a UK border crackdown urging ‘precautionary’ action against Covid variants that have not been detected yet – amid claims the PM wants a more targeted approach.
The Health Secretary gave a strong hint he favours blanket curbs on arrivals ahead of a showdown in a key committee on Tuesday. He also said 77 cases of the South African variant, all linked to travellers, and nine of a Brazilian variant have been identified in the UK.
The key ‘Covid O’ group of ministers are expected to meet to thrash out a tightening, but ‘hawks’ such as Mr Hancock, Michael Gove and Priti Patel have been wrangling with ‘doves’ such as Rishi Sunak and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.
There are calls for all arrivals to be forced into Australia-style ‘quarantine hotels’ at airports for 10 days at their own expense – and a full border shutdown for foreign passengers has not been ruled out.
Sources told the Mail on Sunday that Boris Johnson favours targeting the restrictions on Covid hotspots rather than making all air passengers quarantine.
However, in a sign of the tensions, one Cabinet ‘hawk’ told MailOnline that the policy will be ‘worthless’ unless it covers all arrivals to the UK.
Speaking on Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday Professor Harnden said: ‘I think we have to get used to this.
‘We are living in a world where coronavirus is so prevalent and rapidly mutating there are going to be new variants that pop up in all sorts of different countries.
‘We may well be in a situation where we have to have an annual coronavirus vaccine much like we do with the flu vaccine, but the public should be reassured that these technologies are relatively easy to edit and tweak, so once we find strains that are predominant, the vaccines can be altered.’
Earlier, Mr Hancock told the programme that work was being done with international counterparts to analyse the efficacy of the vaccine on foreign variants, but added he was more worried about further mutant strains that ‘had not been spotted’.
‘There’s probably (variants) elsewhere that simply haven’t been picked up because the country doesn’t have that genomic sequencing service,’ he said.
Mr Hancock said that tests were ongoing at Porton Down and in South Africa, adding that he wanted to see the UK’s genomic sequencing capability ‘made available across the world’ so that emerging variants could be caught.
‘In the meantime we’ve got to have a precautionary principle… so we’ve introduced pre-departure testing and we’ve also introduced checks on everybody to check that that has happened,’ he said.
‘It is absolutely vital that we protect this country from a variant that is not as well dealt with by the vaccine.
‘We cannot risk the progress we have made.’
The Government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance previously said there was ‘no evidence that the South African or Brazilian variants’ were more transmissible than the new UK strain.
But he said: ‘It is the case that both the South African and Brazilian identified variants have more differences in shape which might mean they are recognised differently by antibodies.’
‘I think it is too early to know the effect that will have on the vaccination in people and it is worth remembering that the response of the vaccine is very, very high antibody levels, so they may overcome some of this.’
Boris Johnson is set to compel visitors from high-risk Covid countries to quarantine for ten days, The Mail on Sunday understands. Pictured: Crowds at London’s Heathrow Airport
Cabinet ‘doves’ such as Rishi Sunak (right) and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps (left) have been voicing caution about tightening borders too far