New rules requiring some incoming passengers to quarantine in hotels came into force in the UK on Monday morning.
The UK government announced the measure earlier this month in order to prevent variants of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, also known as the novel coronavirus, from entering the country.
From Monday, people arriving in England from 33 countries on the UK’s “red list”, including southern Africa, South America, Portugal and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), must enter the country through a designated port and have pre-booked a quarantine package to stay at one of the government’s managed quarantine facilities.
The UK government said it had reached deals with 16 hotels so far, providing 4,963 rooms for the quarantine system, with a further 58,000 rooms currently on standby.
“As this deadly virus evolves, so must our defences,” said Britain’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
“The rules coming into force today will bolster the quarantine system and provide another layer of security against new variants at the border,” he said in a statement.
He emphasised that the new measures are “important to protect our vaccination programme.”
But there have been concerns that the CCP virus variants first found in South Africa and Brazil, which scientists believe may be more transmissible and more resistant to antibodies, could reduce the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines.
Britain’s main opposition Labour party has criticised the government’s new quarantine measures as “too little, too late.”
Scottish officials have expressed concerns that passengers landing at an English airport could then travel to Scotland and avoid the need to quarantine.
“I would like to have the most effective system in place here. It would be better if we had a three nations approach where the border across the island Scotland, England, and Wales share had the same provisions in place.”
Matt Hancock, the UK health secretary, told the BBC that he was “happy to have conversations” with the Scottish government about closing the loophole by providing quarantine facilities for people arriving in England before onward travel to Scotland.