Irish policy has 'sunk' UK's hotel quarantine
Paul Charles, the chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, said the the Irish policy had effectively “sunk” the UK’s hotel quarantine.
“What is the evidence that the chief medical officer of Ireland has seen to put that policy straight into effect? That evidence must be available to England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty. So surely the same data and evidence should apply in the UK,” he said.
It is thought the DfT is pressing for the change provided the latest moves to ease restrictions do not spark a spike in Covid infections. PCR testing for fully jabbed travellers is due to be replaced by lateral flow tests by half-term, while pre-departure tests for the vaccinated are being axed from Oct 4.
Hotel quarantine is run by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) which has taken a more pro-economy stance on Covid restrictions since Sajid Javid replaced Matt Hancock.
Eight countries were removed from the red list last week including Turkey, Pakistan Bangladesh, Egypt, Kenya, Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Oman.
Hotel quarantine faces the axe amid growing pressure on the Government to follow Ireland’s decision to ditch the policy.
The Department for Transport (DfT) is understood to back the move which would end the requirement for travellers from red-list countries to self-isolate in government-approved hotels at a cost of up to £2,285 per person.
The travel industry is also pressing for the policy to be ditched following Ireland's announcement on Saturday that it was removing the final six countries from its red list and freeing the last 50 travellers from the self-isolation in hotels from Sunday.
“We can't forget that we're still an outlier on arrivals testing and hotel quarantine, and the Irish decision should hopefully embolden ministers to move to home quarantine as quickly as possible for red-list passengers,” said a senior travel industry source.
“Hotel quarantine was very much a policy of its time but things have moved on.”
Hotel quarantine was introduced at the start of the year amid growing concern at the emergence of variants that it was feared could undermine the effectiveness of the vaccine roll-out.
However, since then the variants of most concern - such as the beta strain that emerged in South Africa - have been marginalised by the dominant delta variant, that originated in India and is now the most common in the UK as well as most other countries.
The Irish Government’s decision was made on the advice of its chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan on the basis that the dominance of the delta variant meant hotel quarantine was no longer need to contain other variants of concern.
UK has more countries on its red list than any other EU nations at 54 and is one of the few countries still to have hotel quarantine alongside Australia and New Zealand, both of which have far lower rates of vaccination than the UK.