Hotel chains are being “kept in the dark” over the government’s plan to introduce mandatory quarantine for people travelling into the UK, the boss of Best Western Hotels has said.
Rob Paterson said the industry has been given no clear guidelines or even a start date for the policy, amid ongoing confusion and conflicting statements from ministers about when it will come into force.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4′s Today programme, he said aside from “broad information about what timings they’re thinking about”, he had not had “any discussions at all”.
“We’ve offered that help, we’ve got a lot of experience with quarantine, in managing Covid-positive environments through the project we did with the NHS,” he said.
“We’ve got all these contacts in other countries that have already rolled this out for some time. They could offer some really valuable support and we’re just simply kept in the dark.
“If you take a hotel that’s currently closed and they open that hotel there’s big expense to open that hotel.”
Also speaking on the Today programme on Thursday morning, Nadhim Zahawi said Matt Hancock will lay out the “operational plan” for hotel quarantines “next week”.
The claim came despite Boris Johnson saying on Wednesday that it would be announced on Thursday.
Last month the government announced people arriving in the UK from 30 Covid hotspots will soon be required to self-isolate in selected hotels for 10 days.
The policy has been pushed by health experts since as far back as April last year but has been resisted by the government.
Mandatory hotel quarantine has long played a key part in public health response in countries with far better records at handling the pandemic than the UK, including Australia, New Zealand, China, India, Singapore, the Philippines, Taiwan, Qatar and Thailand.
Rules around international travel were tightened last month. All travellers must self-isolate for 10 days when they return to the UK but there is little enforcement of the policy and nothing to stop travellers boarding public transport after they’ve arrived.
The new policy aims to plug these gaps by housing travellers close to airports in government-provided, monitored accommodation.
Zahawi said quarantine hotels are “part of a much bigger plan”.
“If you come to the UK, already you have to quarantine for 10 days, you have to have a test within three days before travel, you have to fill in a passenger locator form … we already have a robust border policy,” he said.
Challenged over how “robust” measures actually are, he said: “You have to have a pre-departure test before you arrive – people have to have that or they will be turned away.
“When you arrive, you have to quarantine, even without the hotel quarantine operation yet in place, so the border policy, I think, with the passenger locator forms, where greater enforcement is taking place now than ever before, is robust.”