Red list countries: the 33 nations from which UK travellers must isolate in quarantine hotels – or face jail

Those who fail to quarantine face fines of up to £10,000 – those who lie on passenger forms face up to 10 years in jail in an effort to protect the UK from Covid

New rules on travellers arriving in the UK from countries on the Government’s “red list” come into force from today (15 February).

UK and Irish nationals and UK residents returning to England from 33 “red list” countries – hotspots with Covid-19 variants in circulation – are required to quarantine in hotels for 10 days.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson first announced the new measures in January, and said passengers will be “met at the airport and transported directly into quarantine”.

The Government made limited use of quarantine hotels early in the pandemic, such as this Holiday Inn hotel,close to Heathrow Airport which was block-booked by the Department of Health to use as a quarantine zone in March 2020 (Photo: ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)

People will also be required to fill in a form explaining why their trip is necessary, with enforcement of the ban on leisure travel stepped up at airports.

Here is everything you need to know.

Why are new rules being introduced?

The rules will apply to UK residents arriving from countries where non-UK residents are already banned from entering the UK, and initially cover countries which are already subject to a travel ban due to concerns over mutant strains.

Boris Johnson announced British citizens returning home from 30 countries deemed at 'high risk' from new coronavirus variants will soon have to quarantine in hotels (Photo: TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)

New restrictions on travel are being introduced in order to reduce the risk of UK nationals and residents returning home from these countries spreading these potentially more infectious variants of Covid-19.

"We will require all such arrivals who cannot be refused entry to isolate in Government-provided accommodation such as hotels for 10 days, without exception,” said Johnson.

What are the “red list” countries?

The Home Office said the rules will apply to people arriving from countries where non-UK residents are already banned from entering the UK.

These 30 destinations cover all of South America, southern Africa and Portugal.

These are the countries affected by the quarantine hotels policy:

Cape Verde
Democratic Republic of Congo
French Guiana
Portugal (including Madeira and the Azores)
South Africa

The United Arab Emirates, Burundi and Rwanda have also been added to the “red list” of countries from where travel to the UK is banned.

Will I have to pay for my accommodation?

Arriving travellers put in quarantine hotels in England will be charged £1,750 for their stay, Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced.

What are the penalties for breaking the rules?

Those who fail to quarantine face fines of up to £10,000, and those who lie on passenger locator forms face up to 10 years in jail.

“Anyone who attempts to conceal that they have been in one of those destinations in the 10 days before arrival faces a prison sentence of up to 10 years,” Hancock said.

Who is permitted to travel?

People will also be required to fill in a form explaining why their trip is necessary; travel operators are expected to face fines if they fail to inspect these forms.

Setting out more details of the measures, Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “The rules are clear, people should be staying at home unless they have a valid reason to leave.

Ms Patel went on to give examples of people who “should simply not be travelling”.

She said: “At St Pancras people have been turning up with their skis, that is clearly not acceptable. We see plenty of influencers on social media showing off about which parts of the world that they are in, mainly in sunny parts of the world.

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It's been reported that even elite sporting athletes won’t be exempt from the stringent new measures: Premier League stars returning to England after playing World Cup qualifiers in Portugal and South America will be sent to quarantine hotels for 10 days.

Do the rules go far enough?

When it first was announced on January 27, Home Secretary Priti Patel said further details would be set out "later that week”.

Then at a No 10 press conference, Boris Johnson said Health Secretary Matt Hancock would be making an announcement the next day, only to be corrected by Downing Street which said no statement was planned.

For Labour, shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said the Government had been far too slow to act.

“It is beyond comprehension that these measures won’t even start until February 15,” he said. “We are in a race against time to protect our borders against new Covid strains. Yet hotel quarantine will come into force more than 50 days after the South African strain was discovered."

Are the rules England only?

In Scotland, travellers flying directly into Scotland on international flights have to self-isolate for 10 days in a quarantine hotel room, no matter where they are flying from.

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.

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.

In Wales, First Minister Mark Drakeford has said there will be no quarantine hotels in Wales for the time being, as there no flights from “red list” countries coming into the country, or from abroad, until March.

Speaking to Sky News’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme, Drakeford said he would have done the “opposite” to the UK Government in regard to its approach to overseas travellers coming to the UK.

He said: “Their approach is to say that ‘everybody can come in, other than the people on the red list’. I would have said nobody can come in other than a list of countries where we are absolutely sure that it is safe for people to come.”