COVID-19: Quarantine hotels to be discussed by senior ministers

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The introduction of "COVID hotels" and other curbs on international travel are to be discussed by senior ministers on Monday.

It comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson hinted that further border restrictions were needed to stop dangerous new coronavirus variants entering the country.

Government sources say while completely closing the border is not the likely outcome of the talks, it is still an option being looked at.

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More likely is the potential for hotels to be used to quarantine international arrivals as has already been happening in Australia and New Zealand.

It is understood that while no major hotel chains have yet been approached or booked up, in the last week guidance from the industry has been compiled for ministers.

Travellers could be expected to pay to isolate in a monitored hotel with testing carried out throughout their stay.

Kate Nicholls, Chief Executive of Hospitality UK, said the hotel sector "stands ready to help" and currently has plenty of capacity to provide rooms if required.

"A number of London hotels are already accommodating a small number of business travellers who are self-isolating under the existing regime", said Ms Nicholls.

If adopted, ministers will have to decide whether to apply the restriction to all arrivals or just those from countries deemed to be high risk.

There are currently several travel bans in place stopping most travel from areas where new variants of coronavirus have been detected.

These restrictions bar direct flights but do allow for British nationals and residents to re-enter the country, providing they self-isolate on arrival.

This week, the government closed all UK travel corridors - which had allowed arrivals from some countries to avoid having to quarantine - until at least 15 February.

People coming to the UK from abroad also now have to show proof of a negative COVID test from up to 72 hours before their journey.

But with increasing concern over adherence to quarantine, some are calling for tighter measures at the border to prevent dangerous new variants of the virus being imported to the country.

Tom Tugenhadt, chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, said it "wouldn't be unwise for us to look very hard at our borders and to really consider if now is the time to make sure we control access and restrain any spread".

The Conservative MP added the cost also needed to be looked at to make sure any measures did offer adequate protection.

Additional restrictions on travel would be a further blow to the tourism and aviation sector, which has been calling for more financial support from the government.

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