Travellers could face GPS tracking in bid to crackdown on quarantine breaches

Charles Hymas
·3-min read
Travellers wait at the Covid-19 testing facility at Heathrow Airport in London - Frank Augstein/AP
Travellers wait at the Covid-19 testing facility at Heathrow Airport in London - Frank Augstein/AP
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter

Travellers could face GPS tracking in a bid to crackdown on breaches of quarantine, Dominic Raab indicated on Sunday.

The Foreign Secretary refused to rule out the use of GPS data to establish if people were staying at the address they put on their locator form when they entered the UK.

He also confirmed that the Government was considering quarantine hotels where travellers would be required to stay and pick up the bill, as happens with New Zealand’s policy of “directed isolation” and Australia where arrivals self-isolating are charged between £1,500 and £2,500.

The move follows Boris Johnson’s announcement last week scrapping travel corridors to 63 countries, which means every arrival – apart from exemptions such as hauliers – will have to quarantine for up to 10 days and, from Monday, provide a negative Covid test taken within 72 hours of their departure.

There have been concerns over the lack of compliance with more than a quarter of people in quarantine breaching the rules despite fines of up to £10,000 for doing so.

The Government is examining how to emulate a scheme in Poland, where those told to isolate are subject to “enhanced monitoring”. Each person is contacted once a day and told to send a photograph of themselves at the location where they are confined.

These are cross-referenced using GPS data and facial-recognition software. Those who fail to comply within 20 minutes receive a visit from police. It is understood that ministers discussed both ideas at a meeting on Thursday.

Asked about the prospect of deploying GPS, Mr Raab said: “I would not rule anything out to make sure that we have an effective system of checks to protect the rollout of vaccines. There is no stone we will leave unturned in terms of doing that.”

Challenged over the potential invasion into personal liberty through people’s phones, which he championed as a backbencher, he defended the fact that extraordinary measures were needed to escape the “hellish” pandemic to “bring back our liberties as soon as is reasonably possible”.

He said the Government would consider “all measures in the round,” adding: “In terms of enforcement, we are going to be strengthening the checks at the border – so when people come in to make sure that they have filled out the passenger location form, that they have got that negative test that they have to vouch for before they get on the flight

"Also, because the effect of abolishing or suspending the travel corridors is that people go into quarantine and self-isolation for 10 days, we're making sure that Public Health England checks to make sure people are adhering to those rules.

"As well as changing the rules, we are also making sure that we beef up the capacity to make those checks."

His comment came as Professor John Edmunds, a member of the Government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), criticised the Government's "pretty lax" approach to quarantining foreign arrivals and contacts of coronavirus cases.

"If you're going to have quarantine then you should probably make it as effective as you possibly can,” he told Times Radio.

"Ours has been rather lax, not just for visitors coming into the UK, the vast majority of whom do not have Covid, but we've also been rather lax with our quarantine of individuals who have been in direct contact with a case; indigenous cases.

"We've been pretty lax about that. We just ask them to stay at home and so I think yes, if we're going to have quarantine we should try and make it work as best as possible."