The Governments has announced that international holidays could be permitted again from May 17, prompting a surge of bookings.
However, as things stands all travellers returning from abroad must self-isolate at home for 10 days and three Covid tests (once in the 72 hours before they depart, and twice more after they return at a cost of £210 per person), while those returning from 33 red list countries must pay £1,750 to spend that time in a quarantine hotel.
Whether these tight restrictions will still be in place in May remains to be seen, but anyone caught up on the excitement of foreign holidays returning should book with caution.
Three countries – the UAE, Rwanda and Burundi – were added to the red list on January 28, taking the total number to 33. Under current restrictions, direct flights from the red-listed nations are banned – Britons currently in these countries must fly home via a third nation.
Hotel quarantine has also been introduced for British residents who have been in or transited through red list countries in the previous 10 days. Any non-residents who have been in a red list country within the past 10 days will simply be denied entry to Britain.
Since February 15, arrivals who try to cover up their arrival from a red list country also face jail sentences of up to 10 years. And anyone who tries to avoid mandatory hotel quarantine will face fines of up to £10,000.
New fines also enforce the testing system for all arrivals, whether they quarantine for 10 days in Government-approved hotels or at home.
There is a £1,000 penalty for any traveller arriving in the UK who fails to take a mandatory test either within 72 hours of departure or on the second day of quarantine and a £2,000 penalty for any international arrival who fails to take the second mandatory test on day eight of their isolation.
Any failure to take a required test will also automatically extend the time in quarantine to 14 days.
The plan to force arrivals from these high-risk countries to spend 10 days under guard in a quarantine hotel – at their own cost – was confirmed last month. A booking system and detailed guidance on the hotel quarantine scheme was published on February 11.
The hotel quarantine scheme, which appears to have popular support but is vehemently opposed by the travel industry, comes amid fears over new Covid variants. It puts holidays to Portugal, South America, and large parts of Africa off the cards, and will cause heartbreak for tens of thousands of Britons with family and friends overseas.
Given the existing travel restrictions, the only guests currently checking into these quarantine hotels are returning British residents.
Portugal is the most significant country to face the harsh new rules, with around 2.5m Britons visiting each year. Dubai has attracted thousands of UK holidaymakers in recent months and the UAE as a whole welcomes around 1.5m Britons in a typical year.
Other key red list destinations include South Africa, which welcomes around 430,000 Britons annually, Brazil (155,000), Mauritius (140,000) and Argentina (125,000).
The 33 hotel quarantine red list countries
- South Africa
- DR Congo
- United Arab Emirates (including Dubai)
- Portugal (including Madeira and the Azores)
- Cape Verde
- French Guiana