Travellers from red list countries will be spared the £1,750 charge of hotel quarantine if they can show they’re suffering financial hardship under a government U-turn.
The move to allow “waivers or fee reductions” from the charge for vulnerable travellers follows the threat of legal action on behalf of travellers who claimed they had been unable to afford the costs.
Anyone currently arriving from a red list country is required to pay up to £1,750 per person to cover the costs of 10 days quarantine in a hotel, and two PCR tests on days two and eight.
However, international law firm PGMBM mounted a high court action claiming the charges discriminated against those on low or no income, who could not afford to travel as a result.
Among those supported by the firm was a teenager whose GCSE studies were disrupted by hotel quarantine which had stranded her in Portugal with her family unable to afford the cost.
Now the Government’s lawyers have asked for a “stay” in the legal action of eight weeks so that it can finalise the changes to the policy. Nearly 30,000 people have quarantined in hotels since the scheme was launched.
“Our clients are currently in the process of refining their scheme to allow persons entering the managed quarantine system (MQS) to apply for a fee waiver or reduction on the grounds of financial hardship,” government lawyer Lee John-Charles wrote in a letter to PGMBM.
“We consider that it would be in the best interests of all parties for there to be a stay of proceedings of eight weeks for the details of the scheme to be defined, and for your clients’ circumstances to be considered under the scheme before further work is carried out in these proceedings.
Traffic light travel restrictions
“Once your clients’ circumstances have been considered under the scheme, if they were eligible for a fee waiver their claim would become academic.”
Taylor Burgess, of PGMBM, said: “This policy was rushed through Parliament and introduced without due thought as to how its one-size-fits-all application would penalise vulnerable citizens and residents.
“We are very pleased that our challenge has led the Government to review the policy, yet it remains frustrating that it has taken legal action for changes to be made.
Travel restrictions by country
“Many thousands of people have been subject to exorbitant costs over the past several months or been entirely prevented from undertaking essential travel or returning home because of the financial hardship they would face after paying the costs to quarantine.
“Now the Government wants eight weeks to change this flawed policy. Why must this drag on for those individuals and families who are continuing to suffer from the financial strain of meeting costs for quarantine, and unduly affect many more people?”
The legal claim comes as the Government prepares to allow double vaccinated Britons to travel on holiday to amber list countries without quarantine at home on their return. However, travellers from red list destinations will still have to quarantine in hotels.