Welcome to Hotel Quarantine! First Heathrow arrivals land


Air passengers arriving in London today criticised the Government’s ‘ridiculous’ hotel quarantine rules as they started ten days of isolation despite mixing with dozens of travellers not from nations on the ‘red list’.

Travellers were dropped off at hotels near London Heathrow Airport as the new scheme began and a hospitality boss vowed to make their ten-day, £1,750 stay more ‘homely’ with ‘branded shampoo, puzzles and crockery’.

Dozens of passengers were seen arriving by coach at the four-star Radisson Blu Edwardian after touching down in the UK from a variety of Covid red list countries including the United Arab Emirates, Zambia and South Africa. 

Guests will pay £1,750 per person for the 11 nights, plus an additional £650 for anyone over the age of 12 and £325 for children aged between five and 12. There will be no extra fees for children under five.

Throughout their stay guests will have to eat airline-style food left at their door, change their own sheets and towels and be accompanied by security if they want fresh air or a cigarette outside.

The Radisson offers spacious and airy rooms with large windows, Egyptian cotton linen and goose down pillows – although confined guests will be unable to enjoy its spa or choice of three restaurants. Standard rooms cost around £150 a night while superior suites include their own Nespresso machine.

In other Covid developments today:

  • Ministers discussed plans to allow for shops to re-open, families to be re-united and self-catering staycations to be given the go ahead if Covid-19 infection rates continue to plummet amid the vaccine rollout;
  • Matt Hancock hailed Britain’s 15million Covid vaccine milestone but said there was ‘no rest for the wicked’ as England officially moves on to the next phase of its roll-out;
  • Travel industry campaign group, called Save Our Summer, has demanded international travel is allowed to resume from May 1;
  • Pub bosses dismissed proposals to allow customers in beer gardens only as ‘laughable’ and called on ministers to let them fully reopen their doors in April;
  • MPs demanded ministers publish an assessment of the economic impact of different routes out of lockdown;
  • Downing Street slapped down Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab after he suggested people could have to show vaccine passports before being allowed into shops and restaurants.
A hotel guest gestures to the media, giving them his telephone number, from the window of Radisson Blu Edwardian Hotel, near London Heathrow Airport, one of the new Government managed quarantine facilities, today

A hotel guest gestures to the media, giving them his telephone number, from the window of Radisson Blu Edwardian Hotel, near London Heathrow Airport, one of the new Government managed quarantine facilities, today

Passengers arriving at Heathrow's Terminal 5 are escorted by security personal to buses this morning on their way to a hotel

Passengers arriving at Heathrow’s Terminal 5 are escorted by security personal to buses this morning on their way to a hotel 

The Renaissance Hotel - which overlooks the Heathrow runway - is one of those open to quarantine travellers. Pictured is a graphic of some of the additions available for guests

The Renaissance Hotel – which overlooks the Heathrow runway – is one of those open to quarantine travellers. Pictured is a graphic of some of the additions available for guests 

But a Brazilian couple criticised the hotel quarantine system after revealing how they were mingling with other travellers not from ‘red list’ countries while flying back to London. Wagner Araujo, 43, arrived at Heathrow via Madrid with his wife Elaine, 40, following a trip to Brazil where they went to visit a sick relative.

After being escorted onto a coach at Heathrow to be taken to the nearby Radisson Blu hotel, where the couple will have to remain in quarantine for ten days, Mr Arajuo told MailOnline: ‘The system is ridiculous. 

‘It doesn’t make sense. I was on the flight from Madrid surrounded by other passengers who were not from red list countries. How can that be safe and a good way to prevent coronavirus from spreading? We are all mixing on the plane and then I’m made to go into quarantine.’

33 ‘high-risk’ nations from which arriving travellers will have to quarantine in hotels

Angola

Argentina

Bolivia

Botswana

Brazil

Burundi

Cape Verde

Chile

Colombia

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Ecuador

Eswatini

French Guiana

Guyana

Lesotho

Malawi

Mauritius 

Mozambique

Namibia

Panama

Paraguay

Peru

Portugal (including Madeira and the Azores)

Rwanda

Seychelles

South Africa

Suriname

Tanzania

United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Uruguay

Venezuela

Zambia

Zimbabwe 

 

The couple travelled to Brazil on January 11. They set off for their journey back to the UK from Sao Paulo last night and then had a two-hour stop-over in Madrid before boarding their London flight.

Mrs Araujo said: ‘There were mainly British people on the flight back from Madrid but lots of other nationalities. We were all in a queue together waiting to board the flight and were sitting right beside them.

‘While we were waiting to get off the plane, we were all in the same queue, shoulder to shoulder. What is the point of us going into quarantine now? It’s insane and I don’t understand it at all.’

Mr Araujo revealed that they were only separated from other passengers once they had disembarked the plane at Heathrow and were then sent to a special immigration counter for those arriving from red list countries.

After about an hour, he and his wife were escorted out of the terminal building and onto a waiting coach. Mr Araujo has lived in London for the past 20 years with his wife. He works as a removal man while she is a secretary.

He fumed that he did not have the money to pay for his quarantine hotel, which will cost him £3,500 for him and his wife and is also concerned about their four children, who did not travel to Brazil but remained with a relative in London.

The children are aged six, nine, ten and 17 are being looked after by an older cousin.

Mr Araujo said: ‘The company that I work for has been badly affected by the pandemic and business is really slow. I was able to book the hotel but fortunately, you don’t have to pay the money up front.

‘I don’t know how I’m going to find the money, it is a lot for me. I’m going to have to speak to the authorities because I can’t afford to pay for this hotel. Financially, things are very hard for me at the moment, as they are for a lot of people.

He added: ‘We’re also worried about our kids. We’ve been desperate to see them but now are going to have to wait even longer, because they won’t be able to visit us for the next ten days.

‘I realise that the Government needs to take as many precautions as it can, but I don’t think they’ve thought this system out very well. If you are going to make people quarantine, then it should be everybody who is coming from abroad.’

Security escort passengers as they arrive at a hotel near London Heathrow Airport to begin a ten-day quarantine period

Security escort passengers as they arrive at a hotel near London Heathrow Airport to begin a ten-day quarantine period

A coach delivers passengers to the Radisson Blu Edwardian Hotel, near Heathrow Airport, where dozens of quarantine guests will stay

A coach delivers passengers to the Radisson Blu Edwardian Hotel, near Heathrow Airport, where dozens of quarantine guests will stay 

A guest gives a thumbs down gesture to members of the media from the window of the Radisson Blu near Heathrow today

A guest gives a thumbs down gesture to members of the media from the window of the Radisson Blu near Heathrow today

A Brazilian couple criticised the hotel quarantine system after revealing how they were mingling with other travellers not from 'red list' countries while flying back to London. Wagner Araujo, 43, arrived at Heathrow via Madrid with his wife Elaine (pictured together), 40, following a trip to Brazil where they went to visit a sick relative

A Brazilian couple criticised the hotel quarantine system after revealing how they were mingling with other travellers not from ‘red list’ countries while flying back to London. Wagner Araujo, 43, arrived at Heathrow via Madrid with his wife Elaine (pictured together), 40, following a trip to Brazil where they went to visit a sick relative

Foreign students arrive at Manchester airport today from a destination not on the red list, meaning they do not have to stay in a hotel

Foreign students arrive at Manchester airport today from a destination not on the red list, meaning they do not have to stay in a hotel

Foreign students arrive at Manchester airport today from a destination not on the red list, meaning they do not have to stay in a hotel 

Security escort passengers as they arrive at a hotel near Heathrow today after returning from one of 33 "red list" countries

Security escort passengers as they arrive at a hotel near Heathrow today after returning from one of 33 ‘red list’ countries

Passengers arrive at Birmingham Airport today as the new hotel quarantine measures come into force

Passengers arrive at Birmingham Airport today as the new hotel quarantine measures come into force

Drinks being unloaded at the Radisson Blu Edwardian Hotel this afternoon following an influx of guests on the quarantine programme

Drinks being unloaded at the Radisson Blu Edwardian Hotel this afternoon following an influx of guests on the quarantine programme 

Mr Araujo said that he and Elaine initially intended to return two weeks ago but their flights kept on getting cancelled. He added: ‘Our trip to Brazil was only meant to be a short one but our return flights kept on getting cancelled.

‘We tried to get on other flights before the hotel quarantine deadline but there was no availability. Now we’re going to be stuck in a room for ten days and it’s going to cost us a lot of money.’ 

One of the first Britons returning to the UK to enter the hotel quarantine programme, 24-year-old quantity surveyor Alex Green, pointed out what he felt was a glaring flaw in the ‘isolation’ plan.

In his confirmation email, Alex Green learned he would be a 'guest' at the four-star Radisson Blu Edwardian hotel, with, as he put it: 'an unrivalled view of Heathrow's Northern Runway'

In his confirmation email, Alex Green learned he would be a ‘guest’ at the four-star Radisson Blu Edwardian hotel, with, as he put it: ‘an unrivalled view of Heathrow’s Northern Runway’

Mr Green, who has been backpacking in South America since November, will fly home from Rio via Paris tonight, but on the second leg of his journey will be in close proximity to other passengers starting from Paris, who will not then have to stay in a hotel.

He said: ‘It makes a bit of a nonsense of the whole thing really as anyone on my plane who is flying from Paris doesn’t have to be quarantined, despite being surrounded by connecting travellers from more exotic and covid-risky countries.’

Mr Green, from Woodford Green, Essex, told MailOnline how his chaotic experience began last Thursday as thousands of travellers clamoured to access the Government’s website to book their hotels.

‘It didn’t start well. The website was due to go live at 3pm UK time, but immediately crashed and stayed closed for ‘maintenance’ for the next 27 hours whenever I tried to access it.’

Finally receiving his confirmation email, Mr Green learned he would be a ‘guest’ at the four-star Radisson Blu Edwardian hotel, with, as he put it: ‘an unrivalled view of Heathrow’s Northern Runway.’

The email read: ‘1 X QUARANTINE PACKAGE STANDARD….£1,750’, cash to be paid upfront with a refund only allowed if cancellation was more than 48 hours in advance.

Then he had to rapidly book a one-day Covid PCR test, knowing that if he failed, he would miss the 48-hour refund threshold for the hotel.

Thankfully he found a test, and was negative, so his unscheduled hotel incarceration under the stern gaze of security guards in the corridor of the Radisson will begin tomorrow morning.

Asked how he thought he’d deal with the isolation, he said: ‘It’s hard to tell, without much information to go on. Will I have to take up smoking just to be allowed outside?

‘I’ve heard rumours that there will be no cleaners allowed into the bedrooms or bathrooms, which will certainly rekindle memories of student days!

‘I’ve also read how the mountains of dirty plates piling up led to rodents in one of the Australian quarantine hotels, which I don’t much fancy.

‘As most people do when bored at home or in their room I plan to eat a lot, but at the price we’ve paid for this hotel you might expect five á la carte meals a day from Gordon Ramsay, but I fear the reality will be rather less enticing. ‘

He said other Britons he’d met abroad had either rushed to fly home before the hotel quarantine law came into force for ‘red list’ countries such as Brazil.

But he added: ‘I am possibly one of the few people relieved to be going to the hotel. The option of leaving Brazil earlier to isolate at home and putting my family at risk was never considered. Staying in a hotel for ten days is nothing compared to the losses faced due to this pandemic.’

Meanwhile a woman called Fatima, who arrived at Heathrow from Dubai with her two children, told MailOnline: ‘We knew that we would have to quarantine and don’t have a problem with this. This is a lovely hotel and I think it will be a nice stay.’

The mother revealed that she and her family were met off the plane by security staff and after clearing immigration they were placed on coaches. ‘It took quite a long time but they’ve been looking after us very well,’ she added. 

As Fatima tried to continue speaking, security staff intervened ordering her not to say anything else. There are around six private security officials at the hotel and another two or three on each coach that arrived.

Another woman, who had flown in from Zambia, said: ‘I’m not happy, but you have to do it.’

A security official said : ‘We’ve had about ten guests so far and others are going to different hotels. We’re under strict instructions not to let them meet, speak or get close to other people so you’re going to have to leave the area.

A couple arrive at Birmingham Airport today as the new quarantine measures begin

A couple arrive at Birmingham Airport today as the new quarantine measures begin

A coach delivers passengers to the Radisson Blu Edwardian Hotel, near Heathrow Airport, where they will have to go into ten-day quarantine

Travellers getting off coach at the hotel, which offers spacious and airy rooms with large windows, Egyptian cotton linen and goose down pillows

Travellers getting off coach at the hotel, which offers spacious and airy rooms with large windows, Egyptian cotton linen and goose down pillows

Hotel guests look out of the window at the Radisson Blu Edwardian Hotel, near Heathrow Airport, after arriving there this morning

Hotel guests look out of the window at the Radisson Blu Edwardian Hotel, near Heathrow Airport, after arriving there this morning 

Rooms at the Radisson Blu Edwardian near Heathrow usually cost around £150 a night. Superior rooms like the one pictured come with a Nespresso machine

Rooms at the Radisson Blu Edwardian near Heathrow usually cost around £150 a night. Superior rooms like the one pictured come with a Nespresso machine

Vincent Madden, managing director of Arora Hotels, which has opened the nearby Renaissance Hotel to quarantining travellers, today said staff would be introducing several new touches to make the long stay more bearable. 

‘We’ve got crockery and cutlery in rooms so people can enjoy meals as they would at home,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. 

‘I’m not happy, but you have to do it’: First visitors to have to quarantine in hotels tell of their experiences 

Fatima, who arrived from Dubai and was waiting for her baggage by the coach outside the Radisson Blu Edwardian told MailOnline: ‘I’m with my two children who are waiting inside the hotel. 

‘We knew that we would have to quarantine and don’t have a problem with this. This is a lovely hotel and I think it will be a nice stay. I’m actually quite looking forward to it.’

Fatima revealed that her and her family were met off the plane by security staff and after clearing immigration they were placed on coaches. She added: ‘It took quite a long time but they’ve been looking after us very well.’

As she tried to continue speaking to MailOnline, security staff intervened ordering her not to say anything else. There are around six private security officials at the hotel and another two or three on each coach that arrived.

One woman, who had flown in from Zambia and was staying at the Radisson, said: ‘I’m not happy, but you have to do it.’

One of the first Britons returning to the UK to enter the hotel quarantine programme, 24-year-old quantity surveyor Alex Green, pointed out a glaring flaw in the ‘isolation’ plan.

The quantity surveyor, who has been backpacking in South America since November, has pointed out a glaring flaw in the plan. 

The 24-year-old will arrive home from Rio via Paris tomorrow, but on the second leg of his journey was in close proximity to other passengers starting from Paris, who will not then have to stay in a hotel.

‘It makes a bit of a nonsense of the whole thing really,’ he told MailOnline, ‘as anyone on my plane who is flying from Paris doesn’t have to be quarantined, despite being surrounded by connecting travellers from more exotic and covid-risky countries.’

Pria Mitchell lives in the UAE but her 16-year-old daughter, Jaya, is at sixth form college in the UK. She sent her home yesterday with a friend so she would not have to quarantine in a hotel alone. 

‘There’s no way I’d send my 16-year-old to a hotel room globally anywhere, so the idea of putting her in a hotel room on her own was terrifying,’ she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. 

‘I can’t find any information on any government website on what I should be doing with an unaccompanied child.’  

‘We’ve also got some high street branded shampoos, conditioners and body washes as well so again it’s a bit more homely and added a few touches like electronic newspapers, games and puzzles for people to do so there are some activities for people to do.’  

A total of 16 hotels will accommodate guests arriving in England in the coming weeks, with the government reserving a total of 4,600 rooms. 

Alongside the Radisson Blu passengers were also being taken to a Holiday Inn this morning. 

Other venues involved include the Heathrow Renaissance Hotel, the Ibis Styles London Heathrow East hotel, Novotel Heathrow and the nearby three-star Thistle. 

None of the hotels taking part in the quarantine scheme are believed to be taking other bookings.  

Flights will have to arrive at five airports in England, which alongside Heathrow are Gatwick, London City, Birmingham or Farnborough in Hampshire. All international arrivals in Scotland will have to quarantine in hotels.

A spokesman for Farnborough Airport, which is mainly used by private jets, said all arrivals will be taken by G4S security to one of the Heathrow hotels, according to spokesman for Farnborough.

One of the first Britons returning to the UK to enter the hotel quarantine programme, 24-year-old quantity surveyor Alex Green, pointed out a glaring flaw in the quarantine plan. 

Mr Green, who has been backpacking in South America since November, will arrive home from Rio via Paris tomorrow, but on the second leg of his journey will be in close proximity to other passengers starting from Paris, who will not then have to stay in a hotel.

‘It makes a bit of a nonsense of the whole thing really,’ he said, ‘as anyone on my plane who is flying from Paris doesn’t have to be quarantined, despite being surrounded by connecting travellers from more exotic and covid-risky countries.’

Mr Green, from Woodford Green, Essex, told MailOnline how his chaotic experience began last Thursday as thousands of travellers clamoured to access the government’s website to book their hotels.

‘It didn’t start well. The website was due to go live at 3pm UK time, but immediately crashed and stayed closed for ‘maintenance’ for the next 27 hours whenever I tried to access it.’

Finally receiving his confirmation email, Alex learned he would be a ‘guest’ at the 4-star Radisson Blu Edwardian hotel, with, as he put it: ‘an unrivalled view of Heathrow’s Northern Runway.’

The email read: ‘1 X QUARANTINE PACKAGE STANDARD….£1,750’, cash to be paid upfront with a refund only allowed if cancellation was more than 48 hours in advance.

Then he had to rapidly book a one-day covid PCR test, knowing that if he failed, he would miss the 48-hour refund threshold for the hotel.

Thankfully he found a test, and was negative, so his unscheduled hotel incarceration under the stern gaze of security guards in the corridor of the Radisson will begin tomorrow morning.

Asked how he thought he’d deal with the isolation, he said: ‘It’s hard to tell, without much information to go on. Will I have to take up smoking just to be allowed outside?

‘I’ve heard rumours that there will be no cleaners allowed into the bedrooms or bathrooms, which will certainly rekindle memories of student days!

‘I’ve also read how the mountains of dirty plates piling up led to rodents in one of the Australian quarantine hotels, which I don’t much fancy.’  

Unions warn of ‘bedlam’ at the border amid fears guards lack powers to stop fleeing travellers 

Air passengers arriving from 33 ‘red list’ countries will be forced to undergo an 11-night hotel quarantine in an attempt to clamp down on the spread of new coronavirus variants.

But immigration unions have repeatedly warned that officers have not been given key information about how the scheme is intended to work.

Unions said the Government had ‘failed at the first hurdle’ if it allowed passengers from high-risk countries to mix with other travellers and staff before they were taken to quarantine hotels.

The GMB union said its members and airport staff had raised fears that passengers from countries on the UK’s ‘red list’ were allowed to mix with others in passport queues and crowded arrivals halls.

The warning followed lengthy queues at passport control inside Heathrow last week as travellers scrambled to beat the quarantine deadline.

Passengers described scenes of ‘absolute Bedlam’ as they were forced to wait up to five hours at border control, and said social distancing was impossible in the crowded arrivals queue.

Nadine Houghton, of the GMB union, told The Observer: ‘If you’ve got people getting off planes from the red list countries, then being crammed into areas with passengers who aren’t going into quarantine – and staff as well – you’ve failed at the first hurdle.

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‘Our members working at Heathrow Airport, the ground staff, security staff, have been raising concerns about this for two weeks now. Heathrow just isn’t safe at the moment.’

Unions also accused the Government of failing to provide border officials and quarantine hotel staff with sufficient protection to stop them from catching the virus.

The Immigration Services Union (ISU) has warned that its workers have not been given enough guidance about how to enforce the quarantine policy.

Spokeswoman Lucy Moreton said officers had not been told what they should do if travellers arrived at other airports, or refused to cooperate with quarantine arrangements.

Heathrow Airport has warned that there were still ‘significant gaps’ in the Government’s quarantine planning. Yesterday a spokeswoman said progress had been made to address several issues, but said the airport remained worried about queues at passport gates. She said: ‘Our key concern remains the ability of Border Force to cope. Queues at the border in recent days of almost five hours are totally unacceptable. 

Asked how he thought he’d deal with the isolation, he said: ‘It’s hard to tell, without much information to go on. Will I have to take up smoking just to be allowed outside?

‘I’ve heard rumours that there will be no cleaners allowed into the bedrooms or bathrooms, which will certainly rekindle memories of student days!

‘I’ve also read how the mountains of dirty plates piling up led to rodents in one of the Australian quarantine hotels, which I don’t much fancy.

‘As most people do when bored at home or in their room I plan to eat a lot, but at the price we’ve paid for this hotel you might expect five á la carte meals a day from Gordon Ramsay, but I fear the reality will be rather less enticing. ‘

He said other Britons he’d met abroad had either rushed to fly home before the hotel quarantine law came into force for ‘red list’ countries such as Brazil.

But he added: ‘I am possibly one of the few people relieved to be going to the hotel. 

‘The option of leaving Brazil earlier to isolate at home and putting my family at risk was never considered. Staying in a hotel for ten days is nothing compared to the losses faced due to this pandemic.’    

Heathrow Airport today warned of long queues at Border Control and said there were no protocols in place to segregate passengers from the 33 high-risk countries from  others despite the stringent quarantine measures being introduced.

It is feared the safety of up to 8,000 passengers a day could be compromised as airport staff carry out extra checks on those entering the country. 

Union bosses warned the new system, which will see all passengers from the ‘red list’ countries having to quarantine for ten days in a hotel, will not be enough to stop the mutant variants from spreading.  

Officials estimate that checks carried out to identify if a traveller has arrived from one of the Government’s ‘red list’ zones could double the standard time taken to 15 minutes per arrival. 

A Heathrow spokesman told The Times: ‘Our key concern remains the ability of Border Force to cope. 

‘Queues at the border in recent days of almost five hours are totally unacceptable.

‘Ministers need to ensure there is adequate resource and effective processes at the border to avoid compromising the safety of passengers and those working at the airport, which could necessitate the suspension of some arriving flights.’ 

The Immigration Services Union (ISU) today warned that its workers have not been given enough guidance about how to enforce the quarantine policy. 

They said immigration officers had no power to stop travellers running away from airport terminals and had few powers to detain them at the border. 

Extra police officers have been sent to Heathrow to support Border Force staff. 

Speaking today, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the system has been operating ‘smoothly’ since it came into force at 4am today. 

Chun Wong leaves Edinburgh Airport after entering the country on the first day that travellers flying directly into Scotland on international flights have to self-isolate for 10 days in a quarantine hotel room

Chun Wong leaves Edinburgh Airport after entering the country on the first day that travellers flying directly into Scotland on international flights have to self-isolate for 10 days in a quarantine hotel room

The Radisson Blu Edwardian Hotel is one of 16 hotels taking part in the scheme, which will see visitors charged £1,750 for a ten-day stay

The Radisson Blu Edwardian Hotel is one of 16 hotels taking part in the scheme, which will see visitors charged £1,750 for a ten-day stay 

A woman arriving at the Radisson Blu Edwardian Hotel this morning. Ministers hope the new policy will help spot new variants spreading around the UK

A woman arriving at the Radisson Blu Edwardian Hotel this morning. Ministers hope the new policy will help spot new variants spreading around the UK 

An empty North Terminal at Gatwick Airport today. Commercial aviation has been battered by the impact of coronavirus

An empty North Terminal at Gatwick Airport today. Commercial aviation has been battered by the impact of coronavirus 

Sadly quarantining visitors will not be able to enjoy many of the facilities at the Radisson Blu Edwardian as they will have to stay in their rooms

Sadly quarantining visitors will not be able to enjoy many of the facilities at the Radisson Blu Edwardian as they will have to stay in their rooms 

A room in the Novotel London Heathrow Airport T1, T2 and T3 Hotel where passengers entering England from one of 33 "red list" countries will stay during a 10 day quarantine period

A room in the Novotel London Heathrow Airport T1, T2 and T3 Hotel where passengers entering England from one of 33 ‘red list’ countries will stay during a 10 day quarantine period

The Novotel is one of 16 hotels being used for quarantining arrivals from the 'high-risk' countries under a new scheme starting today

The Novotel is one of 16 hotels being used for quarantining arrivals from the ‘high-risk’ countries under a new scheme starting today 

Twin rooms come with a small window sofa, desk, safe and minibar. Guests will not be allowed to leave their rooms except for brief periods to get fresh air

Twin rooms come with a small window sofa, desk, safe and minibar. Guests will not be allowed to leave their rooms except for brief periods to get fresh air 

The Novotel lobby, which has been recently refurbished. The hotel has 166 bedrooms and is less than a mile from the airport

The Novotel lobby, which has been recently refurbished. The hotel has 166 bedrooms and is less than a mile from the airport 

Travellers arriving in the UK queue outside a Covid testing centre on the first day of the government's hotel quarantine scheme. It is not clear if the people pictured will have to quarantine

Travellers arriving in the UK queue outside a Covid testing centre on the first day of the government’s hotel quarantine scheme. It is not clear if the people pictured will have to quarantine 

Passengers arriving in the UK this morning queue outside a Covid test centre at Heathrow's Terminal 2. Arrivals from red list countries will now have to quarantine. It is unclear if this applies to any of those pictured

Passengers arriving in the UK this morning queue outside a Covid test centre at Heathrow’s Terminal 2. Arrivals from red list countries will now have to quarantine. It is unclear if this applies to any of those pictured 

Real Housewives of Cheshire star Dawn Ward - who has been in Dubai - posted an Instagram video yesterday with the caption 'I'm coming home'

Ward

Real Housewives of Cheshire star Dawn Ward – who has been in Dubai – posted an Instagram video yesterday with the caption ‘I’m coming home’

Q&A: Everything you need to know about the hotel quarantine scheme 

What is the new policy?

Some international arrivals are required to quarantine in a hotel room for 10 days.

Who does this affect?

The rule applies to UK and Irish nationals, and UK residents, returning to the UK.

Does it matter which part of the UK I arrive in?

Yes. In Scotland the policy applies to all arrivals, but in England it is only relevant for those who have been in a country on the Government’s travel ban ‘red list’ in the past 10 days. There are no international flights arriving in Wales or Northern Ireland.

What is a ‘red list’ country

This is a list of 33 countries deemed at high risk of coronavirus variants, which includes all of South America, southern Africa, Portugal and the United Arab Emirates. The full list in on the Government’s website.

What about people are are not a UK or Irish national or a UK resident?

If they have been in a ‘red list’ country in the past 10 days they are banned from entering the UK.

What should I do before I return to England?

Travellers must take a coronavirus test and get a negative result in the three days before they travel. Those coming from a country on the Government’s banned list must book a ‘managed self-isolation package’ which includes a hotel, transport and testing.

Passengers will also be required to complete a passenger locator form with details of where they will quarantine on arrival. Those who provide false information on their locator form could face up to 10 years in prison.

How much does a stay at a quarantine hotel cost?

The Government’s quarantine package includes the cost of transport from the airport to the designated hotel, food, accommodation and testing.

A single adult will be charged £1,750 for one room for the duration of their stay, an additional £650 for anyone over the age of 12 and £325 for children aged between five and 12. There will be no additional fees for children under five.

What if I don’t book a quarantine hotel?

People face a fine of up to £4,000 for not booking a quarantine package, and will still have to pay for one on arrival.

Can I fly into any airport?

No. Those booked into a quarantine hotel can only fly into Heathrow, Gatwick, London City, Birmingham and Farnborough airports. Those with pre-existing bookings to a different port of entry must change it to one of the above. People who fail to do this face a fine of up to £10,000.

What happens when I arrive?

Travellers need to provide their passenger locator form, passport and a negative Covid-19 test result to Border Force staff.

They will then be transported to their quarantine hotel, with transport also arranged back to the airport at the end of their stay. Guests are required to quarantine in their hotel room for 10 days.

How many quarantine hotels are there?

The Government has struck deals with 16 hotels so far, providing 4,963 rooms for the new quarantine system, with a further 58,000 rooms currently on standby.

Will I be tested during my stay?

Guests need to take a Covid-19 test on or before day two of their stay, followed by another on or after day eight. Those who refuse to take a test will face a £2,000 fine, the Government said.

What happens if I test positive?

Those who test positive on day two must quarantine until day 12. People who return a positive result on day eight must stay until day 18.

When can I leave my quarantine hotel?

People will be able to leave after receiving a negative result from the Covid-19 test on day eight and have quarantined for a full 10 days.

What if I’m returning from a non-‘red list’ country?

Passengers must instead quarantine for 10 days at home and complete two Covid-19 tests on the second and eighth day after arriving.

Asked on Times Radio how quarantine hotel-bound passengers are being prevented from mixing with other arrivals in airports, Mr Hancock said: ‘All of this has been clearly set out, and I’m glad to say that, as of 6.30am when I got my latest update, this is working smoothly.

‘We’ve been working with the airports and the Border Force to make sure that everybody knows (how it works).

‘We have had to put this in place rapidly, I make no apologies for that, and we’ve been working with Heathrow and others.’

Pressed on how ‘red list’ passengers are being kept away from others, Mr Hancock added: ‘You go down a separate channel at the gates and, once you’ve been through the gates, which are manned by the Border Force, there is then a security operation supported by the police so that people are gathered, go and pick up their luggage and then go to the hotels.

‘So that’s all in train; there was a walkthrough of it yesterday and obviously it has been in place since four o’clock this morning.’

People required to enter the quarantine hotel programme must enter England or Scotland through a designated port and have pre-booked a package to stay at one of the Government’s managed facilities.

No international flights are operating to Wales or Northern Ireland.

All guests arriving in England will have to pay an individual fee of £1,750 and will have to eat airline-style food left at their door, change their own sheets and towels and be accompanied by security if they want fresh air or a cigarette outside. 

Yesterday frantic travellers made a desperate dash to return to the UK before the stringent rules came into force. 

Pria Mitchell lives in the UAE but her 16-year-old daughter, Jaya, is at sixth form college in the UK. She sent her home yesterday with a friend so she would not have to quarantine in a hotel alone. 

‘There’s no way I’d send my 16-year-old to a hotel room globally anywhere, so the idea of putting her in a hotel room on her own was terrifying,’ she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. 

‘I can’t find any information on any government website on what I should be doing with an unaccompanied child.’  

Real Housewives of Cheshire star Dawn Ward – who has been in Dubai – posted an Instagram video yesterday with the caption ‘I’m coming home’. 

Stephanie Lvovich, 50, and her daughter Ava, 13, who flew into Heathrow Airport from Dubai, told The Sun: ‘We booked a flight as soon as we heard about the hotel quarantine.’

Meanwhile Tom Weston, 24, who arrived from Doha, Qatar, told the paper: ‘I’ve been very keen to get in. I wouldn’t cope well with two weeks in a hotel . . . and the expense.’   

Ahead of the new rules being introduced, Meher Nawab, chief executive of the London Hotel Group, warned that many airport hotels rely on central air flow systems.

Pointing to Australia’s system – which is currently under review amid an outbreak linked to quarantine hotels – he warned such systems could increase the risk of the virus spreading between guests and hotel staff.

Mr Nawab also warned that airport hotels often use central air conditioning systems – rather than individual units – and sometimes have windows that cannot be opened. 

Union chiefs meanwhile warned that the quarantine measures were not enough to prevent Covid variants spreading in the UK. 

The GMB union, which represents hotel security and staff, also raised concerns about its members interacting with arrivals from ‘red listed’ countries which are included in the quarantine hotel scheme. 

Nadine Houghton, GMB national officer, told The Observer: ‘If you’ve got people getting off planes from the red list countries, then being crammed into areas with passengers who aren’t going into quarantine – and staff as well – you’ve failed at the first hurdle.

‘Our members working at, the ground staff, security staff, have been raising concerns about this for two weeks now. Heathrow just isn’t safe at the moment.’

Despite the rising criticism Matt Hancock said: ‘As this deadly virus evolves, so must our defences.

‘The rules coming into force today will bolster the quarantine system and provide another layer of security against new variants at the border.’ 

This month analysis carried out by the World Health Organisation found dozens of countries where the highly infectious South African and Brazilian variants had been found were not on the list.

They included Austria, Denmark, France, Greece, Japan, Kenya, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Belgium, Canada and the United States.

MailOnline understands that the 3-star Thistle Hotel at Heathrow could also be used as part of the scheme

MailOnline understands that the 3-star Thistle Hotel at Heathrow could also be used as part of the scheme 

A plane flies over the Renaissance Hotel near Heathrow Airport as it prepares to welcome travellers from the 33 'red list' countries

A plane flies over the Renaissance Hotel near Heathrow Airport as it prepares to welcome travellers from the 33 ‘red list’ countries

The Ibis Styles London Heathrow East is set to welcome guests. It is seen last week with large medical bins outside

The Ibis Styles London Heathrow East is set to welcome guests. It is seen last week with large medical bins outside  

The majority of those required to quarantine will arrive at Heathrow, but bosses yesterday said there were  'significant gaps' about how the scheme would operate remain. Pictured: Novotel Hotel near Heathrow Airport which is being prepared for use as a Government-designated quarantine hotel

The majority of those required to quarantine will arrive at Heathrow, but bosses yesterday said there were  ‘significant gaps’ about how the scheme would operate remain. Pictured: Novotel Hotel near Heathrow Airport which is being prepared for use as a Government-designated quarantine hotel

The four-star Radisson Blu Edwardian, Heathrow is one of the 16 venues taking part in the government hotel quarantine scheme 

A traveller arrives at Heathrow Airport this morning after Britain introduced its quarantine programme for a number of 'high-risk' countries

A traveller arrives at Heathrow Airport this morning after Britain introduced its quarantine programme for a number of ‘high-risk’ countries 

Travellers may have be forced to queue for up to five hours as the Government's quarantine hotels comes into force today. Pictured: Passengers arrive at Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport

Travellers may have be forced to queue for up to five hours as the Government’s quarantine hotels comes into force today. Pictured: Passengers arrive at Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport

A three-star Ibis will be among the hotels welcoming Heathrow arrivals as part of the government's travel quarantine programme, MailOnline can reveal. Pictured is one of the twin bedrooms

A three-star Ibis will be among the hotels welcoming Heathrow arrivals as part of the government’s travel quarantine programme, MailOnline can reveal. Pictured is one of the twin bedrooms 

Travellers won't be able to enjoy the spacious bar and dining areas as they will be confined to their rooms for the entire 10-day stay, with airline food left at the door

Travellers won’t be able to enjoy the spacious bar and dining areas as they will be confined to their rooms for the entire 10-day stay, with airline food left at the door

The Ibis Styles London Heathrow East is owned by Accor, a French company that has the motto 'live limitless'. Pictured: The desk area in one of the bedrooms

The Ibis Styles London Heathrow East is owned by Accor, a French company that has the motto ‘live limitless’. Pictured: The desk area in one of the bedrooms

Reviews of the Thistle (pictured) have compared it to 'Fawlty Towers' and it has also been called 'depressing'

Reviews of the Thistle (rodent trap outside right) have compared it to 'Fawlty Towers' and it has also been called 'depressing'

Reviews of the Thistle (left, and rodent trap outside right) have compared it to ‘Fawlty Towers’ and it has also been called ‘depressing’

Save our summer! Travel firms join forces and urge Boris Johnson to allow foreign breaks by May in bid to rescue tourism industry 

Boris Johnson will come under pressure today from a newly-formed action group demanding that international travel resumes from May 1.

It comes amid claims that the Government has in effect declared war on the travel industry with its advice that no one should book a holiday either in Britain or overseas.

The new group, called Save Our Summer (SOS), is made up of UK travel companies whose total annual revenues came to more than £11billion before the Covid crisis. 

It is demanding that the Prime Minister and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announce a clear timeline for the opening up of travel.

They want this to reflect the Government’s own projections that all the most vulnerable people in the UK should have received two doses of vaccine by early spring. 

The group is supported by travel firms, which are guaranteeing that anyone booking through them will be entitled to either receive a refund or rebook their holiday if travel is cancelled or not possible due to Government Covid-19 restrictions.

They include Trailfinders, Easyjet Holidays, DialAFlight, Celebrity Cruises, Scott Dunn, Mr and Mrs Smith, Audley Travel, True Travel, Wild Frontiers, Elegant Resorts and Teletext Holidays. Henry Morley, chief executive of True Travel and co-founder of Save Our Summer, said: ‘The travel industry stands on the edge of a precipice. A minister’s job is to protect our industry, not destroy it.’

Mr Shapps was widely criticised after claiming last week that it was ‘illegal’ to book a holiday.  

Labour Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds reacted with fury at the news, branding the Government’s quarantine measures ‘dangerously inadequate’. 

While former Labour leader Ed Miliband told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: ‘At the moment the government is proposing a quarantine system that covers just five per cent of arrivals that happen each day in the UK.

‘That is not an effective quarantine system.’ 

It came as Jeane Freeman, the Scottish health secretary, said UK ministers’ refusal to help track arrivals who cross from England into Scotland was ‘deeply disappointing’.

Ms Freeman said she would go ahead with plans for checks at the border in Scotland after no agreement was reached in talks last Thursday. 

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also warned that police in Scotland could be asked to ‘do more than they’re doing right now’ to make sure travellers were not trying to cross the border. 

Speaking at a coronavirus briefing, Ms Freeman said: ‘It’s deeply disappointing that as part of a family of equals, one partner isn’t prepared to help the other partner enforce the policy that they think is the right policy for the people they represent.

‘The discussions will continue, because we are, as we have always been, keen where we can to reach a four-nation approach to deal with a virus that doesn’t respect boundaries and borders.

‘But in the meantime, we will work through what the options are to mitigate where the UK government stance creates a loophole.

‘We can’t have people coming in, getting on public transport, coming to Scotland and we don’t know about that and they are not required to quarantine in way that we can’t manage so we have to consider what our options are about that land border.’     

Boris Johnson will come under pressure today from a newly-formed action group demanding that international travel resumes from May 1.

It comes amid claims that the Government has in effect declared war on the travel industry with its advice that no one should book a holiday either in Britain or overseas.

The new group, called Save Our Summer (SOS), is made up of UK travel companies whose total annual revenues came to more than £11billion before the Covid crisis.

It is demanding that the Prime Minister and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announce a clear timeline for the opening up of travel.

First arrivals leave Edinburgh airport as Nicola Sturgeon enforces 10-day hotel quarantine for arrivals from ALL foreign countries  

The first arrivals to take part in Scotland’s hotel quarantine scheme touched down at Edinburgh Airport today before being escorted to their accommodation. 

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Travellers flying directly into Scotland on international flights have to self-isolate for 10 days in a quarantine hotel room, under new regulations taking effect this morning.

Unless exempt, a passenger will have to pay £1,750 to quarantine in a room at one of six designated hotels in a bid to avoid importation of the virus.

However, Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said on Sunday a ‘loophole’ allowing overseas travellers to avoid hotel quarantine still exists which could ‘potentially undermine the public health approach here in Scotland’.

A family arriving from Turkey are escorted to a quarantine hotel after entering the country on the first day that travellers flying directly into Scotland on all international flights have to self-isolate for 10 days

A family arriving from Turkey are escorted to a quarantine hotel after entering the country on the first day that travellers flying directly into Scotland on all international flights have to self-isolate for 10 days

Security guards escorted passengers arriving at the Edinburgh airport terminal directly into a coach to take them to a hotel

Security guards escorted passengers arriving at the Edinburgh airport terminal directly into a coach to take them to a hotel 

Passengers leave Edinburgh airport after entering the country on the first day that travellers flying directly into Scotland on international flights have to self-isolate

Passengers leave Edinburgh airport after entering the country on the first day that travellers flying directly into Scotland on international flights have to self-isolate

Travellers flying directly into Scotland on international flights have to self-isolate for 10 days in a quarantine hotel room, under new regulations taking effect this morning

Travellers flying directly into Scotland on international flights have to self-isolate for 10 days in a quarantine hotel room, under new regulations taking effect this morning

In England, the UK Government will only require hotel quarantine for visitors from a ‘red list’ of 33 countries designated as high risk, meaning travellers arriving from elsewhere could avoid it by entering Scotland via England.

Visitors would still have to self-isolate for the 10-day period, but would not have to do so at one of the designated hotels due to a lack of agreement between Scottish and Westminster governments.

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Monday that he is happy to discuss the matter with the Scottish Government.

Mr Matheson told the BBC’s The Sunday Show: ‘It is a loophole that has been created by the UK Government and its failure to take action on the basis of the clinical, expert advice that has been provided on this matter.’

He added: ‘The simplest and the safest approach to dealing with this is to have a comprehensive system in place.

‘If the UK Government aren’t prepared to do that, we could resolve the issue by simply ensuring those who are transferring on to Scotland have to go to a quarantine facility near to the airport they arrive at in England.’

Asked about the possibility of border checks, Mr Matheson said it would be ‘very challenging’ to implement due to the number of vehicles travelling between England and Scotland.

In an interview on BBC Good Morning Scotland on Monday, Mr Hancock was asked whether he could assist the Scottish Government by allowing people travelling to Scotland to quarantine in England if they arrive at Heathrow or another English airport.

He said: ‘I’m happy to have those conversations.’ 

Unless exempt, a passenger will have to pay £1,750 to quarantine in a room at one of six designated hotels in a bid to avoid importation of the virus.

Unless exempt, a passenger will have to pay £1,750 to quarantine in a room at one of six designated hotels in a bid to avoid importation of the virus.

Officials helped direct one of the first families arriving at Edinburgh Airport onto waiting coaches before their 10-day hotel stay

Early arrivals at Edinburgh airport today

Officials helped direct one of the first families arriving at Edinburgh Airport onto waiting coaches before their 10-day hotel stay 

Asked whether this would be with a view to making it happen, he said: ‘If you allow me to have the conversations first.

‘But because we have put in place one system to operationalise this that applies across the different airports of the UK including Edinburgh and Glasgow, that does mean that we are in a position to make these sorts of amendments, but the central point is, it doesn’t matter where you land in the UK, (there is a) very robust, comprehensive system of quarantine, and it is comprehensive, because you have to quarantine for 10 days and have the two tests after you arrive no matter where you are coming from.

‘But there is a different degree of risk coming from somewhere where a new variant is the dominant variant locally, like Brazil, or coming from somewhere where there isn’t much coronavirus.’

Announcing the quarantine policy in parliament last week, Mr Matheson said six hotels have been block-booked in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow, with up to 1,300 rooms available.

Three of the the hotels are near Edinburgh Airport, two close to Glasgow Airport and one near Aberdeen Airport.

Scottish Government guidance stipulates those subject to quarantine require a negative Covid-19 test no more than three days before travelling and to have booked at a room at a quarantine hotel in advance.

They will also have to submit a passenger locator form to the Home Office declaring which countries they have been to in the 10 days before arrival in the UK.

Airlines have been asked to check for these and they will also be checked by Border Force officers on arrival, who can issue fines of £480 for non-compliance.

Security will then escort passengers to baggage reclaim and to pre-arranged transport to the quarantine hotel.

On arrival at the hotel, they will be given two home testing kits to be used on days two and eight of isolation.

These are covered by the cost as are three meals per day, fruit and soft drinks.

If they test positive at any point they will be required to stay in the hotel for 10 days after the test, at an additional charge starting at £152 daily for the first adult. 

UK government’s new travel rules revealed: From repeated Covid tests to ten years in prison for people lying about having visited ‘hot spot’ countries  

Matt Hancock has announced details of the tougher border measures to MPs. 

TEN YEARS IN PRISON  

Mr Hancock said that arrivals who lie on their passenger locator forms about visiting ‘hot spot’ countries, in order to avoid hotel quarantine, face up to a decade in prison.

It affects British arrivals from 33 countries deemed high risk of new variants. Nationals of those countries will be refused entry to the UK and most direct flights have already been banned.

The countries include all of South America, large parts of Africa – including South Africa – and the United Arab Emirates. 

HOTEL QUARANTINE

Arrivals from Red List nations will have to quarantine at a Government-designated hotel for 10 days.

It will cost the travellers £1,750 each, although the Government is paying the upfront cost and will bill them afterwards. 

Attempts to break out of the quarantine before the 10 days are up could result in a fine of up to £10,000. 

They are not eligible for the five-day ‘test and release’  scheme.

None of the 16 hotels involved in Number 10’s quarantine plan have been named for ‘commercial reasons’.

REPEATED COVID TESTS 

Red List arrivals will be required to test negative for coronavirus 72 hours before departure, using a kit that meets UK government standards. 

They will be tested again on day two and day eight of quarantine, with costs included in the wider charge of the hotel stay. 

NON-RED LIST ARRIVALS

The same requirement for a negative test result 72 hours before departure applies.

Once in the UK, they must isolate for 10 days at home or in private accommodation, with the authorities able to check that they are obeying the rules.

Tests will be required on day two and day eight of isolation, and must be booked through a government portal in advance of travel. The portal will be launched on Thursday.

The costs are not yet known but PCR tests typically cost around £120 a time.

TEST AND RELEASE 

The test and release scheme – which allows non-‘red list travellers’ to leave isolation if they test negative after five days is staying in place. Many essential business travellers are likely to take this option.

However, Mr Hancock suggested even though they will not be subject to quarantine after the five-day test, they will still be required to have tests on day two and days eight. That means they could be screened four times in total. 

Roadmap to freedom next MONDAY: Boris Johnson says he wants to make ‘cautious but irreversible’ changes and promises to lay out dates for how lockdown will end as even scientists say this should be final shutdown and Tory MPs demand all rules eased ASAP

Jack Maidment, Deputy Political Editor for MailOnline

Boris Johnson today insisted he wants the UK to make ‘cautious but irreversible’ progress when lockdown starts to be lifted as he prepares to unveil his exit strategy on Monday next week. 

The Prime Minister, who will hold a Downing Street press conference at 5pm, said the roadmap out of lockdown will include specific target dates for reopening different sectors of the economy and society. 

But he stressed dates will be when the Government aims ‘to do something at the earliest’ and if there is a spike in infection rates ministers ‘won’t hesitate’ to delay the reopening. 

His comments came as scientific experts said they ‘confidently expect’ the current national shutdown to be the last one – as long as a new vaccine-busting variant is not discovered. 

Earlier, Matt Hancock hailed a ‘little step towards freedom for us all’ after the Government hit its 15million vaccinations target as he slapped down Tory demands to lift all lockdown rules by the end of April. 

The Health Secretary said ‘there is a long way to go’ before life can return to normal and while coronavirus cases are falling ‘sharply’ the number of people in hospital with the disease is still ‘too high’. 

He also said it is ‘too early to say’ whether the falling number of deaths is ‘directly due’ to the vaccine roll-out. 

Mr Hancock’s comments represent a firm rebuke to the Covid Recovery Group of Conservative MPs which has demanded Mr Johnson remove all legal restrictions in England by the start of May.  

Boris Johnson, pictured today at a vaccination centre in London, confirmed his lockdown exit plan, due to be unveiled next week, will have target reopening dates fo different sectors

Boris Johnson, pictured today at a vaccination centre in London, confirmed his lockdown exit plan, due to be unveiled next week, will have target reopening dates fo different sectors

What are the UK priority groups for vaccinations? 

1. Residents in a care home for older adults and staff working in care homes for older adults

2. All those 80 years of age and over and frontline health and social care workers

3. All those 75 years of age and over

4. All those 70 years of age and over and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals (not including pregnant women and those under 16 years of age)

5. All those 65 years of age and over

6. Adults aged 16 to 65 years in an at-risk group 

7. All those 60 years of age and over

8. All those 55 years of age and over

9. All those 50 years of age and over

Ministers are said to be discussing plans to allow shops to re-open, families to be re-united and self-catering staycations to be given the go ahead if Covid-19 infection rates continue to plummet. 

Plans to ease lockdown were boosted yesterday by figures showing the dramatic impact vaccines are already having as Mr Johnson last night confirmed the country had hit its target of vaccinating the 15million most vulnerable people two days ahead of schedule. 

Mr Hancock described hitting the target as an ’emotional moment because it is the moment that protects us and also it is just a little step towards freedom for us all’.

The PM said the number of new Covid cases has already dropped ‘very considerably’ preparing the way for lockdown measures to be relaxed. 

Analysis shows cases have come down in 95 per cent of council areas. And hospital data is promising, too, with the number of inpatients now at half of its January peak in England – with 17,694 down from 34,336.

It is thought that this could mean the re-opening of High Street shops within weeks as well as the easing of restrictions on outdoor exercise and socialising.

Ministers are also said to be considering plans to allow for families of a single household to travel across the UK for an Easter holiday in self-catered accommodation.

It has led to growing hope that families will be able to meet outside by Easter as early as next month to allow grandchildren to reunite with their grandparents.  

Mr Johnson was asked this morning whether all school children will return to classrooms in England on the same day on the Government’s target date of March 8 or if there will be a phased approach. 

He replied: ‘Well, no decisions have been taken with that sort of detail yet though clearly schools on March 8 has for a long time been a priority of the Government and of families up and down the country. 

‘We will do everything we can to make that happen but we have got to keep looking at the data, we have got to keep looking at the rates of infection – don’t forget they are still very high, still 23,000 or so Covid patients in the NHS, more than at the April peak last year, still sadly too many people dying of this disease, rates of infection although they are coming down are still comparatively high.

‘So we have got to be very prudent and what we want to see is progress that is cautious but irreversible. I think that is what the public and people up and down the country will want to see. Progress that is cautious but irreversible.’

Asked during a visit to a vaccination centre in London if his road map will have specific dates for easing rules, the PM said: ‘If we possibly can we will be setting out dates and just to help people think about what we are trying to do on the 22nd, remember what we did around about this time last year or a little bit later, we set out a roadmap going forward into the summer and looking a little bit beyond. That is what we are going to be trying to do.

‘The dates that we will be setting out will be the dates by which we hope we can do something at the earliest if you see what I mean. It is the target date by which we hope to do something at the earliest.

‘If because of the rate of infection we have to push something off a little bit to the right, delay it for a little bit, we won’t hesitate to do that.’

England’s ACTUAL Covid hotspots: How infection rates have tripled in 0.6% of wards in a week

Coronavirus infection rates have tripled or more in 42 council wards across England, with a six-fold surge in one village in East Yorkshire mystifying its residents – but overall cases are falling in 95 per cent of larger boroughs.

South Cave, a village 13 miles west of Hull and home to fewer than 5,000 people, saw its infection rate surge from 123 cases per 100,000 people in the week to February 2 to 750 per 100,000 by February 9. 

During the latest week 55 people – more than one per cent of the population there – tested positive for the virus in just seven days. Residents told local news website Hull Live they were ‘gobsmacked’ that cases had shot up.

Nationally, the same weekly data show 21.3 per cent of council wards saw their positive test rates rise between February 2 and 9 despite England’s lockdown still being in full force.

The areas with the highest infection rates, counted in cases per 100,000 people, in which a rate of 1,000 is one per cent of the population in a week, were in Rutland, Dorset, Staffordshire, Knowsley, Bedford, Walsall, Fenland, Doncaster and Liverpool, as well as South Cave.

But looking at larger borough areas, of which there are 315 across all of England, analysis shows that cases have come down in 95 per cent of areas.

And hospital data is promising, too, with the number of inpatients with Covid-19 now at half of its January peak in England – with 17,694 down from 34,336 – and patient numbers down 41 per cent UK-wide.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said today that there is still ‘some way to go’ in ending the second wave of Covid in the UK but said there was hope vaccines would stop the virus spreading and Boris Johnson would lay out his roadmap out of lockdown next Monday.

The PM said the Government’s aim is to get the rate of infection ‘down very low indeed’ in order to reduce the risk of new variants and to guard against the fact that ‘no vaccination programme is 100 per cent effective’. 

Mr Johnson said ‘we want to drive it right down, keep it right down’ as he also urged people who should have had a coronavirus jab by now to come forward and make sure they receive a vaccine.  

His comments came as scientists said they are hopeful the current national shutdown will be the last one. 

Paul Hunter, professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia, told ITV’s Good Morning Britain programme: ‘I certainly hope it is… and providing there isn’t another surprise coming up with more dangerous variant then I confidently expect it to be the last lockdown, because once we’ve got a substantial proportion of our vulnerable people protected then it’s highly unlikely that we’ll be seeing the same sorts of pressure on the health service, but that doesn’t mean to say that the virus is going to go away anytime soon.’ 

Mr Johnson is under growing pressure from Tory MPs to ease lockdown rules as quickly as possible. 

More than 60 MPs in the CRG, led by former chief whip Mark Harper, backed a letter to the PM insisting he commit to a firm timetable for ending controls.

They said schools ‘must’ return on March 8 as planned with pubs and restaurants opening in a ‘commercially viable manner’ from Easter, with the end of April marking the final end of lockdown. 

The Government is aiming to have vaccinated the top nine priority groups by the end of April and the CRG believes that must be the point at which lockdown finally ends. 

But Mr Hancock dismissed the calls for a firm timeline, telling Sky News this morning: ‘Of course there is a long way to go and in a way the most important message remains the message for everybody to stay at home and abide by the rules.’ 

He added: ‘We have got to watch the data and look, I talk to Mark Harper and others all the time because everybody wants to get out of this as quickly as we safely can, both quickly but also as safely are important. That is what everybody agrees with.

‘The question is a judgement of how quickly we can do that safely. That is the judgement that we will be making this week, looking at the data ahead of the Prime Minister setting out the road map on the 22nd, a week from today.’

Mr Hancock said the ‘signs are that thankfully the number of deaths is falling and has been now coming down for a few weeks’.

But pointing to the start of the vaccine roll-out in December, he added: ‘It is too early to say whether that is directly due to the vaccination programme yet.

‘In those first couple of weeks in December the numbers were relatively small, we are going up half a million a day now whereas in December we did a million in the whole of December from the 8th through to New Year.

‘So it is too early to be able to measure the direct impact but of course we are looking at that and we can see overall that the number of cases is coming down sharply, the numbers in hospitals is coming down but it is still too high – on the latest count there is still 23,000 people in hospital with Covid.’ 

Mr Hancock said he was ‘really, really proud of the team’ after the Government hit its 15million vaccinations target. 

‘We hit it two days early and right across the whole of the UK, managing to ensure that everybody in groups one to four is offered a jab and got 15 million jabs done,’ he said. 

‘But you say I danced a little jig, that was referring specifically to when members of my family got vaccinated and I know that for millions of people this is such an emotional moment because it is the moment that protects us and also it is just a little step towards freedom for us all.’

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Tory MP Steve Baker, the deputy chairman of the CRG, today hit back at the Government’s suggestion that the group’s demand for a lockdown deadline is arbitrary.

He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: ‘If we were talking about something arbitrary then of course the criticism would be correct but we are not talking about something arbitrary and there is no question of just plucking dates out of the diary, that is simply wrong.

Boris Johnson rules out vaccine passports to go to the pub

Boris Johnson today promised Britons will not need to carry a ‘vaccine passport’ to go to the pub when the country comes out of lockdown.

The Prime Minister shot down growing reports the controversial scheme is being looked at as a tactic to keep the economy open when restrictions are finally lifted. 

But Mr Johnson conceded that some form of proof of vaccination will likely be needed to get international travel back up and running in the future. 

Eight firms have been awarded Government grants to develop the technology, but No10 has repeatedly said such documents will not be introduced in the UK. 

But the scheme has been mired in confusion following a series of contradictory statements from ministers – Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab yesterday suggested supermarkets and the hospitality sector could use them. 

Critics say the scheme would be ‘discriminatory’ and make the voluntary jabs mandatory by proxy. 

During a visit to a community vaccination centre in Orpington, South East London, today, Mr Johnson admitted the passports were being looked at for international travel but claimed they were not being considered domestically.

He said: ‘I think inevitably there will be great interest in ideas like can you show that you had a vaccination against Covid in the way that you sometimes have to show you have had a vaccination against Yellow Fever or other diseases in order to travel somewhere.

‘I think that is going to be very much in the mix down the road, I think that is going to happen. What I don’t think we will have in this country is – as it were – vaccination passports to allow you to go to, say, the pub or something like that.’

‘The reality is that what we have said is intimately connected with the vaccine roll-out plan and that is something to be celebrated, we know these vaccines work… that is why we have said now that the top four groups are vaccinated accounting for 88 per cent of Covid deaths that is why the Government should now be opening schools because we can’t afford to be cavalier about the harm to children.

‘We have said that other restrictions which remain in place should be proportionate to the harms which Covid is then capable of causing, bearing in mind the accelerating number of people vaccinated.

‘Likewise, hospitality by Easter we will be looking at two thirds of groups one to nine vaccinated and therefore harms that Covid inescapable of causing will be again substantially diminished.

‘For hospitality you are either open at Easter or you are not. It is a major time of the year for hospitality so it is very important that Government takes note of the harms caused to hospitality by being kept close.

‘And then of course by May 1 we will have vaccinated all of the top nine groups which remember includes people under 50 who are clinically extremely vulnerable and others with underlying health conditions.’ 

Writing in The Telegraph overnight, Mr Baker had said the nation must have ‘free life by May 1’. 

It is thought that due to the vaccine rollout success, Downing Street is currently looking at plans that would allow families that live in the same household to go away for self-catered staycations as soon as the Easter holidays.

However, that has raised fears that letting people travel long distances to their destinations could lead to ‘big movements’ across the UK – potentially leading to a spike in coronavirus cases once again.

The latest developments could also see the easing of restrictions on outdoor exercise and socialising as early as next month with the return of one-to-one outdoor sports such as golf and tennis.

It is thought that this will be followed by the re-opening of non-essential retailers with pubs and restaurants being allowed to serve people outdoors later in April.

Indoor hospitality would not return until May with the possibility of delay until August.

The pace at which restrictions are eased will depend on the ongoing scientific advice but ministers are also considering plans to allow grandparents to reunite with their grandchildren outdoors from next month.  

Mr Johnson had previously urged people to wait until the government had issued a 'road map' out of lockdown (empty high street pictured in March last year)

Mr Johnson had previously urged people to wait until the government had issued a ‘road map’ out of lockdown (empty high street pictured in March last year)

Plans to ease lockdown were boosted yesterday by figures showing the dramatic impact vaccines are already having (packed high street pictured during December last year before the latest lockdown was imposed)

Plans to ease lockdown were boosted yesterday by figures showing the dramatic impact vaccines are already having (packed high street pictured during December last year before the latest lockdown was imposed)

Wetherspoon boss Tim Martin wants punters back INSIDE bars to coincide with non-essential shops reopening

Wetherspoon today called on the Government to open its pubs at the same time as non-essential shops as bars remain shut across Britain during the third lockdown.

Ministers are said to be considering plans to allow hospitality firms to serve customers outside by Easter, which falls on the weekend of April 2.

But a full reopening is not expected until May at the earliest – and Wetherspoon boss Tim Martin warned that the industry is ‘on its knees’ and must reopen to save jobs.

It comes as Mitchells & Butlers, which owns All Bar One, Toby Carvery and Harvester said it will raise £350million from its largest investors to shore up its finances.  

Schools are set to be the first to return, with ministers targeting a date of March 8 for classrooms to welcome back pupils. 

People could also be allowed to meet friends and family outdoors on a one-to-one basis.

A government source told The Telegraph that there could be an exemption to the one-to-one outdoor meeting rule for children. 

‘If grandparents had had the vaccine, that would be likely to be okay,’ they said. 

‘Given that people will have immunity, that would be a fair assumption, but nothing has been decided.’

Mr Johnson last night a ‘significant milestone’ as the number of people in the UK receiving a coronavirus vaccine passed 15million.

The Prime Minister said it was an ‘extraordinary feat’ just over two months after 91-year-old Margaret Keenan became the first person in the world to receive a Covid-19 jab as part of a mass vaccination programme.  

In a video message posted on Twitter, Mr Johnson said: ‘Today we have reached a significant milestone in the United Kingdom’s national vaccination programme.

‘This country has achieved an extraordinary feat – administering a total of 15 million jabs into the arms of some of the most vulnerable people in the country.’

The announcement paves the way for the rollout to be extended to the next five priority groups – including the over-50s – who are due to be completed by the end of April.

In England, 1.2 million letters have already gone out to 65 to 69 year-olds and the clinically vulnerable inviting them to book an appointment.

Schools open on March 8, golf and tennis allowed, friends meeting in the park and grandparents to see grandchildren BEFORE Easter under Boris Johnson’s lockdown-easing roadmap that could even see domestic holidays return in APRIL

By David Wilcock, Whitehall Correspondent for MailOnline

Britons could be out and about playing golf and tennis and enjoying time in the park with friends and family within weeks under plans being drawn up to ease the lockdown.

Boris Johnson this morning pledged a ‘cautious but irreversible’ approach to easing restrictions that have been in place since the new year.

The Prime Minister is due to unveil a ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown on February 22 that is expected to confirm at least some children will return to school on March 8.

But he and ministers are refusing to reveal and other firm dates – and have warned that any they do announce will be the ‘earliest’ measures could be lifted – reserving the right to push the lifting back if there are any new spikes in Covid cases.

However reports suggest that some of the more gruelling social aspects of the lockdown – like preventing grandparents from seeing grandchildren and barring people from enjoying outdoor spaces unless exercising –  could be among the first to be lifted.

Non-essential shops could also lift their shutters March.

There are even suggestions that domestic holidays could return in time for Easter – but limited to family bubbles staying in self-catering accommodation. 

Pubs and restaurants are also expected to open in April –  initially to serve people outdoors.

Plans to ease lockdown were boosted yesterday by figures showing the dramatic impact vaccines are already having as Mr Johnson last night confirmed the country had hit its target of 15 million vaccinations ahead of schedule.

The Prime Minister said the number of new cases has already dropped ‘very considerably’ preparing the way for lockdown measures to be relaxed.

Here is how the lockdown lifting could pan out: 

Boris Johnson this morning pledged a 'cautious but irreversible' approach to easing restrictions that have been in place since the new year.

Boris Johnson this morning pledged a ‘cautious but irreversible’ approach to easing restrictions that have been in place since the new year.

February 22: Boris Johnson unveils his roadmap

Mr Johnson will unveil his lockdown-easing roadmap to MPs and the nation on Monday.

But after a year of anti-coronavirus measures that have been marked by often misplaced optimism and criticism over doing too little, too late, the  Prime Minister today stressed the need to be ‘very prudent’, while lockdown-sceptical Tory MPs pressure for a swift reopening. 

‘No decisions have been taken on that sort of detail (dates) yet, though clearly schools on March 8 has for a long time been a priority of the Government and of families up and down the country,’ Mr Johnson told reporters during a visit to Orpington Health and Wellbeing Centre in south-east London.

He added that ‘we will do everything we can to make that happen’, but cautioned that infection rates are still ‘comparatively high’ and Covid-19 patients in the NHS remain higher than the April peak.

‘So we’ve got to be very prudent and what we wanted to see is progress that is cautious but irreversible and I think that’s what the public and people up and down the country will want to see,’ Mr Johnson added.

March 8: Children return to school 

The only firm date so far in the PM's lockdown diary is March 8, when children will return to school for face-to-face lessons for the first time since January.

The only firm date so far in the PM’s lockdown diary is March 8, when children will return to school for face-to-face lessons for the first time since January.

Steve Chalke, the head of the Oasis Academies Trust, described Number 10's plan as 'impossible'

Steve Chalke, the head of the Oasis Academies Trust, described Number 10’s plan as ‘impossible’

What are the UK priority groups for vaccinations? 

1. Residents in a care home for older adults and staff working in care homes for older adults

2. All those 80 years of age and over and frontline health and social care workers

3. All those 75 years of age and over

4. All those 70 years of age and over and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals (not including pregnant women and those under 16 years of age)

5. All those 65 years of age and over

6. Adults aged 16 to 65 years in an at-risk group 

7. All those 60 years of age and over

8. All those 55 years of age and over

9. All those 50 years of age and over

10. Rest of the population

The only firm date so far in the PM’s lockdown diary is March 8, when children will return to school for face-to-face lessons for the first time since January.

The remaining question is over how many children will go back straight away.  Reports have suggested that a staggered approach may be taken, with secondary schools going back a week later than primaries. 

Mr Johnson said today that no decisions have been made on whether year groups across schools in England will return together or whether primaries and secondaries could be staggered.

An academy chief today cast doubt on the ‘optimistic’ plans as he warned dates were ‘being pulled out of thin air.’ 

Steve Chalke, the head of the Oasis Academies Trust, described Number 10’s plan as ‘impossible’.

He suggested ministers take a ‘regional approach’ by vaccinating all staff before sending pupils back.

He also warned schools needed to create more space including having marquees in playgrounds, to avoid children being ‘like sardines in a can’.

Professor Neil Ferguson, who advises the Government as part of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), said modelling suggests ‘there probably is leeway to reopen all schools’ from March 8 but acknowledged there will be ‘slightly more of a risk’ in a rise in cases than if just primary schools were reopened.

Professor Gabriel Scally, president of the epidemiology and public health section at the Royal Society of Medicine and a member of Independent Sage, said schools must be made safe before reopening.

He told Good Morning Britain: ‘By taking on extra space, by improving ventilation, by extending mask-wearing in schools – all of these things will help.’  

Early March: Outdoor rules loosened, return of golf and tennis

After the schools are reopened, some of the social measures in place in the lockdown are likely to be among the first to be lifted.

Exercise is the only regular reason people in England have been allowed to leave home, but this rule is likely to be among the first to be relaxed to bring respite to people cooped up at home, especially without a garden.

People are expected to be allowed to meet friends and family outdoors on a one-to-one basis – with social distancing – and in a boost for families this two-person total may not include children. 

A Government source also told The Telegraph: ‘If grandparents had had the vaccine, that would be likely to be okay.

‘Given that people will have immunity, that would be a fair assumption, but nothing has been decided.’

Mr Johnson also wants to bring back the rule of six for outdoor gatherings, which would allow families to meet in groups for walks or picnics. 

The rules could also allow for the resumption of outdoor individual sports and those where competitors do not come into close contact with each other. Golf and Tennis have both been banned during the lockdown but could be among the first to resume.

Late March: non-essential shops  

Plans to ease lockdown were boosted yesterday by figures showing the dramatic impact vaccines are already having (packed high street pictured during December last year before the latest lockdown was imposed)

Plans to ease lockdown were boosted yesterday by figures showing the dramatic impact vaccines are already having (packed high street pictured during December last year before the latest lockdown was imposed)

High Street shops will be allowed to reopen within weeks if Covid infection rates keep dropping.

 High Street shops will be allowed to reopen within weeks if Covid infection rates keep dropping.

High Street shops will be allowed to reopen within weeks if Covid infection rates keep dropping. 

Government sources expect this will happen towards the end of March, or the beginning of April at the latest.

Rishi Sunak’s furlough scheme and other job-prevention measures were extended late last year to cover the period up to the end of April. But firms will be able to access emergency loans only until the end of March.

Any reopening before would act as a welcome economic stimulus and ease – if only a little – the massive level of public spending during the pandemic.   

Easter: Pubs could reopen, self-catering holidays allowed

Ministers are said to be considering plans to allow hospitality firms to serve customers outside by Easter, which falls on the weekend of April 2.

But a full reopening which service and seating inside pubs as well is not expected until May at the earliest. 

Wetherspoon boss Tim Martin today warned that the industry is ‘on its knees’ and must reopen to save jobs. 

Aditionally, Mitchells & Butlers, which owns All Bar One, Toby Carvery and Harvester said it will raise £350million from its largest investors to shore up its finances.

M&B, which is Britain’s largest listed pub company, operates around 1,700 restaurants and pubs across the UK but cut about 1,300 jobs last year.

The developments follow a bust-up between pub groups and the Government which has seen companies pull out of regular business roundtables in frustration.

The head of industry body UK Hospitality warned today said there will need to be more support for businesses if restrictions continue.

Kate Nicholls said that flexible furlough and grants would need to be extended past  March 31 cut-off without some way of opening to make money.

It is thought that due to the vaccine rollout success ministers are currently looking at plans that would allow families that live in the same household to go away for self-catered staycations as soon as the Easter holidays (Cornwall pictured)

It is thought that due to the vaccine rollout success ministers are currently looking at plans that would allow families that live in the same household to go away for self-catered staycations as soon as the Easter holidays (Cornwall pictured)

She told Good Morning Britain: ‘If we are to stay closed or severely restricted for much longer then we are going to need to have additional government support over and above that (which has been provided to date). Flexible furlough and grants going on beyond March 31 so that our businesses can survive.’

Ms Nicholls called for a ‘very clear phased exit strategy from the lockdown and then from the restrictions that the hospitality sector is facing’.

She said: ‘Even if we open up under lockdown, we’re opening up under very strict restrictions that meant we didn’t break even last year when we were trading from July, so we can be confident that we can be safe when we reopen and when the time is right.

‘We need to see not just that initial date but the phasing out of those restrictions linked to the rollout of the vaccine.’

Mr Johnson today promised Britons will not need to carry a ‘vaccine passport’ to go to the pub. He shot down growing reports the controversial scheme is being looked at as a tactic to keep the economy open when restrictions are finally lifted.

But Mr Johnson conceded that some form of proof of vaccination will likely be needed to get international travel back up and running in the future. 

‘I think inevitably there will be great interest in ideas like can you show that you had a vaccination against Covid in the way that you sometimes have to show you have had a vaccination against Yellow Fever or other diseases in order to travel somewhere,’ he said.

‘I think that is going to be very much in the mix down the road, I think that is going to happen. What I don’t think we will have in this country is – as it were – vaccination passports to allow you to go to, say, the pub or something like that.’

It is thought that due to the vaccine rollout success ministers are currently looking at plans that would allow families that live in the same household to go away for self-catered staycations as soon as the Easter holidays.

This has raised fears that letting people travel long distances to their destinations could lead to ‘big movements’ across the UK – potentially leading to a spike in coronavirus cases once again.  

May: Weddings? 

A group of senior Tory MPs has demanded Boris Johnson allow Covid-safe weddings to resume from March 8 and unrestricted ceremonies from May 1.

Some 13 Conservative backbenchers, including 1922 Committee chairman Sir Graham Brady, have backed the What About Weddings campaign.

The group is pushing for the Prime Minister to include the moves in his lockdown exit plan which he is due to unveil next week.

Philip Davies and Esther McVey, who got married last September, are among 13 Tory MPs who have backed the What About Weddings campaign

Philip Davies and Esther McVey, who got married last September, are among 13 Tory MPs who have backed the What About Weddings campaign

The MPs want Mr Johnson to deliver some hope to the hundreds of thousands of people who are waiting to get married and who have seen their plans ruined by lockdown.

The group is being led by Tory MPs Esther McVey and Philip Davies who got married last September. 

Current lockdown rules state that people should ‘only consider booking a wedding or civil partnership (or continuing with one that is already booked) in exceptional circumstances’, for example in cases of terminal illness or life changing surgery.

The What About Weddings campaign represents 400,000 people who work in the £14.7billion UK wedding industry and the estimated half a million couples waiting for restrictions to be lifted so they can get married. 



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