The British government has implemented new travel restrictions for UK citizens as well as foreign nationals entering the country in a bid to prevent the spread of mutant variants of the coronavirus.
Under the new measure, travellers returning from 30 “red list” countries will have to undergo a mandatory 10-day quarantine in government-provided accommodation.
“In order to reduce the risk posed by UK nationals and residents returning home from these countries, I can announce that 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,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a statement to MPs released by Sky News.
In addition, Home Secretary Priti Patel in a statement to the House of Commons said UK nationals and residents looking to travel abroad will have to provide a valid and legitimate declaration as to why they are seeking to travel and those who fail to do so will be instructed to return home.
“There are still too many people coming in and out of our country each day,” Patel said, making it clear that these new restrictions were aimed at reducing “passenger flow so that only a small number of people for whom it is absolutely essential to travel are doing so and therefore reducing the risk to our world-leading vaccine programme.”
“Going on holiday is not a valid reason,” she reiterated in her statement to MPs.
Under the rules of the national lockdown that came into force last month, it is illegal to travel abroad for holiday or any other leisure purposes.
The states on the red list include all countries from South America and states from southern and central Africa as well Portugal. Arrivals from these countries will have to pay from their own pockets to isolate in a monitored hotel with tests being carried out for the duration of their stay.
Although the new travel implementations had been anticipated in recent weeks, opposition parties and critics have argued that the new restrictions have come too late and that the government should have taken such steps during the early phases of the pandemic.
Nick Thomas-Symonds, the Labour party’s shadow home secretary, said the new quarantine rules were “too limited” and that current mutations of the virus will threaten the effectiveness and efficiency of the vaccines.
“We cannot know where these mutations will emerge from next, and the truth is the government is once again behind the curve,” he said.
Ian Blackford, leader of the Scottish National Party in Westminster, said his government as well as the Welsh government want to introduce stricter rules than what the UK prime minister has imposed, calling on Boris Johnson to “stop his half measures” and introduce “stricter enforcement on international travel.”
The announcements came after the number of deaths in the UK caused by the pandemic passed the 100,000 mark, making it the country with the fifth highest death toll in the world.