Britons in up to 30 countries will have to pay for hotel quarantine if they return to the UK to prevent new Covid variants reaching this country from South Africa and South America.
Boris Johnson was on Tuesday night expected to approve the plans for Australian-style hotel quarantine that will cost travellers up to £1,500 for 10 days self-isolating with meals served in their rooms and supervised by private security guards.
The Cabinet’s Covid operations committee was expected to back away from imposing the requirement for quarantine hotels on all returning Britons and instead limit it to the 30 “high risk” countries currently covered by a travel ban for foreigners. All 30 bar Portugal and Cape Verde are in or around South Africa and South America, where three Covid variants have emerged, in addition to the one that emerged in Kent.
Home Secretary Priti Patel is widely expected to announce a limited plan for new arrivals in England to quarantine in hotels when she later details to the House of Commons border protections against new coronavirus variants arriving from overseas.
Follow the latest updates below.
Australia’s 10th Covid-free day in a row
Australia recorded a 10th straight day of no new local Covid-19 cases on Wednesday, allowing its most populous state of New South Wales (NSW) to relax coronavirus restrictions after controlling a fast-spreading cluster.
NSW has recorded no local cases for 10 days after low single digit numbers earlier in January. Victoria state, which is hosting the Australia Open tennis tournament, has gone three weeks without a local case.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt tweeted on Wednesday marked the 10th day of no community transmission of Covid-19 Australia wide, adding the country’s success comes at a time when global coronavirus cases have crossed 100 million with the death toll surpassing 2 million.
Australia has recorded more than 22,000 local cases since the pandemic began and 909 deaths.
The Covid-free run allowed NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklien to ease coronavirus restrictions from Friday, including relaxing rules around mask wearing and increasing numbers in house parties, weddings, funerals and places of worship.
The restrictions had kicked in late last year to successfully curb virus clusters in Sydney’s northern beaches and western suburbs. The outbreaks saw other states and territories close borders or restrict travel from NSW.
Berejiklien hinted that restrictions would be eased further in two weeks if there were no further cases, adding she was “striking the right balance” between economic growth and virus control.
First Tokyo Olympics test event to be postponed
The first Tokyo Olympics test event of 2021 will be postponed due to travel restrictions under Japan’s coronavirus state of emergency, media reported Wednesday.
The artistic swimming test event – which will double as the sport’s final qualifier for the Games, and is set to feature around 10 countries – was scheduled to be held at the Tokyo Aquatics Center from March 4-7.
It could now be held in April or May, according to several Japanese media outlets citing sources close to the matter.
The International Swimming Federation (FINA) and Japan Swimming Federation (JASF) have determined travel restrictions on foreign nationals coming into Japan would make the event too difficult to organise, the reports said.
FINA, JASF and Tokyo 2020 did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Japan’s borders are currently all but closed to foreign visitors, with Tokyo and other parts of the country under a state of emergency until at least February 7.
Woman dies of Covid on 25th birthday
A recently qualified teacher who died with Covid-19 on her 25th birthday has been described as a “beautiful soul”.
Claudia Marsh’s death last Wednesday at the Royal University Hospital in Liverpool was described by a family friend as “sudden and unexpected”.
An online funding page set up for donations to two organisations Ms Marsh was involved with, Talking Eating Disorders (TEDS) and The Whitechapel Centre, has already raised more than £15,000.
Leigh Best, family friend and founder of Teds which helped Ms Marsh when she had an eating disorder, told the PA news agency: “She had collapsed and was rushed to hospital, and then she deteriorated very quickly, so it was very sudden and unexpected.”
She said Ms Marsh had recently qualified as a teacher, adding: “I have to say anyone who knew Claudia would say she just had a very beautiful smile.
“She had a smile that lit up a room, and she was very kind, very caring, very funny, and just a really, really beautiful young woman. She really was.”