Tracking travellers to the UK to check they follow quarantine rules is among the measures the Home Office has considered in a bid to tighten border restrictions.
The option for GPS tracking, similar to a policy used in Singapore last summer, was included in a draft “borders enforcement” paper that was produced by Home Secretary Priti Patel’s department, The Guardian reports.
Introducing Australia and New Zealand-style “quarantine hotels”, in which travellers to the UK would be forced to spend their self-isolation period, and/or bringing in a blanket ban on travel are the more likely travel curbs expected to emerge in the coming days, with the Government playing down the tracking option on Friday.
More than 30 countries are under UK travel bans due to fears over new Covid variants, with Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announcing via Twitter on Thursday night that Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo would be added to the list, effective from 4am Friday, due to the variant detected in South Africa. All people travelling to the UK are already required to produce a negative Covid-19 test before departure and self-isolate for 10 days on arrival.
In a press briefing on Thursday, Ms Patel said that it was “far too early” to be speculating if people should be booking a summer holiday adding that “when it comes to borders and travel, it’s right that the Government does everything we can right now to protect the roll-out of this vaccine.”
However, criticism of the UK’s border measures has come from a World Health Organisation consultant Alvaro Garbayo. After arriving in the UK on Thursday, Mr Garbayo tweeted Health Secretary Matt Hancock to say: “Border control at Heathrow a complete mess, a crowd queuing for more than one hour with not enough space to keep safe distance. Just making sure we all get infected before entering UK? Proactively pushing for herd immunity?”.
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Hong Kong to impose first lockdowns
Hong Kong will place tens of thousands of its residents in a lockdown to contain a new outbreak of the coronavirus, the first such measure the Chinese-ruled city has taken since the pandemic began, a local newspaper reported on Friday.
South China Morning Post, citing unnamed sources familiar with the situation, said the new measure will target the Jordan and Sham Shui Po districts which cover a small, but densely populated part of the Kowloon Peninsula.
The districts are home to many ageing, subdivided flats in which the virus could spread more easily.
“Persistently high and spreading infection [in the areas] and sewage surveillance suggest the outbreak is not yet under control, and many silent sources still exist within the area,” a source was quoted as saying.
Biden to impose quarantine on arrivals to US, executive order confirms
Travellers arriving the US will be required to quarantine as part of the latest executive order signed by new president Joe Biden.
The president did not include detail on the length of the quarantine requirement.
In the executive order, it just says that the quarantine period will be in accord with Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. The CDC recommends that travellers stay home for seven days after arriving from abroad in most cases.
The self-isolation measure will come alongside pre-travel testing rules that were already due to be introduced on January 26.
Anyone arriving into the US will be required to produce proof of a negative Covid-19 test taken within 72 hours of departure.
Cabinet and Treasury in battle over borders as UK tries to keep Covid variants at bay
The two sides will determine how far to go in tightening restrictions on international travel, which could include a blanket ban, the Telegraph reports.
It is a battle over the UK’s borders that will pitch the Cabinet “doves” of Matt Hancock, Priti Patel and Michael Gove against the economic “hawks” of the Treasury and Department for Transport.
The Cabinet’s coronavirus operations committee (Covid O) will see the two sides determine in the coming days how far the Government should go in further tightening the restrictions on international travel to combat the spread of the new highly-infectious Covid strains.
After Boris Johnson closed the 63 travel corridors last Friday, on top of compulsory pre-departure Covid testing for all arrivals to the UK, the status quo is the most “hawkish” of the options on the committee’s agenda.
Shapps announces travel ban for Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced via Twitter on Thursday that all arrivals from these countries, aside from British and Irish nationals, would be denied entry to the UK due to a Covid variant found in South Africa.
Some 30 countries under now under travel bans issued by the UK Government.
What happened yesterday?
The main headlines from Thursday:
- Vaccine passports for travellers ‘unavoidable’
- Netherlands to ban UK flights and debate national curfew
- Dubai orders new restrictions as Covid cases rise
- Travellers may have to pay for two weeks in hotel quarantine
- Norwegian Cruise Line ‘exploring’ possibility of compulsory passenger vaccines
- Romania scraps quarantine for vaccinated visitors
- EU considering travel bans to combat Covid variants
Now onto today’s news.