Hotel quarantine was introduced in February 2021 as a blunt tool to reduce the risk of Covid, and any new variants, being reimported back into the UK.
The list of countries was originally 30 strong. It’s since doubled in size to incorporate most of South America and Africa, as well as top holiday hotspots the United Arab Emirates and Turkey.
The latest additions on 14 July were Cuba, Indonesia, Myanmar and Sierra Leone.
The cost of 11 nights is hotel quarantine for a solo traveller is £1,750, which includes accommodation and food and drink, as well as PCR tests on day two and eight. Each additional adult or child over 11 costs £650.
However, travellers from the riskiest countries could face an £500 increase in their hotel quarantine bill under new plans, reports The Telegraph.
Ministers have repeatedly warned against travelling to destinations on the red list, considered the riskiest countries for Covid infection, but visiting these territories isn’t illegal - rather advised against.
Officials are reportedly frustrated that taxpayers are effectively subsidising the scheme, which is run by the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC).
The government also offers a deferred payment plan for travellers who need to return to the UK for essential reasons such as work or education but cannot afford the cost.
Since February, around 30,000 people have stayed in quarantine hotels, which are located next to airports including Heathrow, Gatwick and Birmingham.
The transport secretary has consistently cautioned against travellers coming voluntarily back into hotel quarantine.
“I also want to point out that people should not be travelling to red list countries. The only people who should be coming back to government quarantine are British or Irish citizens, or people with permanent rights of residence,” Grant Shapps said.
“And there should be a limit to the number of people who are still abroad and wishing to return. I sometimes come across cases where people are still using the red list as if it is a case of 'It’s ok, I can come back and hotel quarantine'. That should not be the case.”
A DHSC spokesperson told The Independent that the cost of hotel quarantine was “kept under review”.
They added: “Our top priority has always been protecting the public and the robust border regime we introduced is helping minimise the number of new variants being imported into the UK.
“Currently people are advised not to travel from England to red list countries. Anyone returning to England from a red list country needs to book and pay for their hotel quarantine package, which is a single-cost charge, which we keep under review to ensure value for money for taxpayers.
“Anyone facing financial hardship has the opportunity to apply for a deferred repayment plan when booking.”