Travellers face a £500 increase in the costs of hotel quarantine to more than £2,250 under plans being considered by ministers to curb “unnecessary” trips to red list countries.
Ministers are frustrated that the taxpayer is subsidising the costs of putting thousands of travellers up in hotels for 10 days when they “should not be travelling to red list countries”.
About 30,000 people have already stayed in the hotels at a cost of up to £1,750 per person after arriving back from red list countries. The price also includes day two and day eight PCR tests.
Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, voiced his frustration in the Commons when he insisted the scheme did not make a profit for the Government, but was in fact subsidised.
“I also want to point out that people should not be travelling to red list countries. The only people who should be coming back to government quarantine are British or Irish citizens, or people with permanent rights of residence,” he said.
“And there should be a limit to the number of people who are still abroad and wishing to return. I sometimes come across cases where people are still using the red list as if it is a case of ‘It’s okay, I can come back and hotel quarantine’. That should not be the case.”
The hotel quarantine 'red list' countries
It comes as the Government is also being forced by threatened legal action to offer “waivers or fee reductions” to travellers from red list countries if they can show they would suffer financial hardship by having to stay in them.
The Government is expected to publish the details of the new fee cut scheme within the next month after legal action by law firm PGMBM claimed 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.
Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, said: “Increasing the charges is further tightening of the borders and making it more expensive for anyone thinking of coming from a red destination.
“The number testing positive in hotels is tiny. The principle of quarantine is a relic of earlier days. It would be better for the Government to replace it with testing on arrival.”
It comes as Croatia became the latest country to impose obligatory Covid tests for all visitors, including those who are vaccinated from the UK because of the surge in cases of the delta variant. Only children under 12 will be exempt and the measure takes force on July 26.
In a statement, Croatia’s state health institute said: “Due to the worsening of the epidemiological situation in the United Kingdom, Cyprus and Russia, as an additional measure for people arriving from those countries, a negative (COVID-19) test will be required regardless whether they are vaccinated or have already had a disease.”