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COVID-19: Britain to introduce ‘Australian-style’ hotel quarantine for travellers?

COVID-19: Britain to introduce ‘Australian-style’ hotel quarantine for travellers?

This was rumoured a few days ago by an article in the Telegraph UK, but now appears to be more solid.

UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson is reportedly ready to introduce mandatory 10-day hotel stays for incoming travellers to Britain.

Decision Tuesday, 26 January 2021

The decision is expected to be announced after a cabinet meeting today (Tuesday 26 January, UK time).

Scale up of ‘Australian style’

Some details are not yet available, but it is likely to include some elements borrowed from the Australian experience including:

  • Direct – Flight to Airport to Hotel – transfers
  • Cost recovery – £1,500 (~AU$2660) from travellers
  • Compulsory – applies to all incoming travellers
  • Government supervised hotels
  • Separate COVID-19 hotels for those who test positive
  • Multiple tests through-out quarantine stay
  • 14-night quarantine – although Boris has shortened this to 10 nights – let’s see the science on that Boris

Some newspapers are reporting that it may only initially be for travellers arriving from certain countries providing significant risk – including those where the newer more transmissible strains are present, like Brazil, Portugal and South Africa.

The scale of this proposal would dwarf Australia’s system. The UK has about 10,000 arrivals each day, meaning the system would require maybe 10 times that (up to 100,000 rooms) on any one day once it got rolling.

That’s a big fleet of buses you would need each day for transport and a massive enforcement team from police or other services before you even think about the cleaners and other staff. All of which would require COVID-19 safety procedure training and supervision.

Quarantine experience in Australia

If you want to find out about one person’s experience of 14-day quarantine here in Sydney. Have a read of this post based on an Englishman’s experience of quarantine in Australia

a large indoor pool with large windows
Peppers Waymouth Street, Adelaide, South Australia – where there was a transmission of COVID-19 from guest to staff.

Current Rules

Currently, incoming passengers to Britain are notionally ‘self-isolating’ at home for 10 days, but there is little or no compliance nor enforcement.

British COVID-19 situation

The new rules have been prompted by the prevalence of new, more highly transmissible strains of COVID-19, and the effect that might have on an already overwhelmed British health system.

The UK currently has over 37,000 cases per day, with nearly 38,000 people battling or recovering from the virus in hospital. The death rate from COViD-19 overnight was nearly 600.

Travel industry opposition

Like much of the response in Britain, the view of the travel industry appears short term. The compulsory quarantine scheme is seen as a disincentive for people to travel. Given that an Australian going on a trip to the UK would spend 10 days in quarantine on arrival, and 14 days on their return to Australia, the industry spokesman may have a point.

On the other hand, long term, such a system would boost the survival chances of the hotel industry and provide confidence to business, the public and travellers for their future.

The hotel quarantine scheme would also help mitigate the potential of reinfection by one of the new variants, or the potential vaccine resisting variants to come.

a large building with a tree in front of it
Natural History Museum, London

2PAXfly Takeout

This is another timely reminder to wear your seatbelt when seated. Holding you close to your seat will protect you from the sort of injuries sustained on this flight, when unsecured passengers flew to the ceiling of the aircraft, and then came crashing down once the ‘drop’ ceased.

The hope will be that this is an anomaly – a ‘freak accident’ in casual parlance. If it is a systemic error either mechanical or electronic, then this is a larger concern for the airlines that fly Boeing Dreamliner 787 aircraft. Let’s hope it isn’t. If it is, it will pile on the woes to Boeing’s existing stack.

Australia and New Zealand have proved the efficacy of such a system. I just hope that in adopting the ‘Australian-style’ of quarantine, they don’t adopt its bad points, like having it supervised by private, largely untrained security guards as they did in Melbourne, or choosing properties that have unsuitable air-conditioning systems that don’t stop cross-infection between guests.

It also might be just too late to introduce the scheme. Unlike in Australia and NZ, the infection horse has already bolted in the United Kingdom.

As a consequence this might be too much, too late?

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