People who lie on their passenger locator form after arriving in England from abroad face “up to 10 years” in prison, Matt Hancock has announced.
The health secretary said the new tough rule would apply to anyone attempting to conceal they had been in one of the “red list” coronavirus hotspot countries 10 days before arrival.
He also confirmed people isolating at home after arrival will have to get a Covid-19 test two and eight days into their 10-day quarantine period.
Speaking in the Commons on Tuesday, Hancock said it was needed to “secure the nation against new variants of coronavirus”.
Current rules already require people travelling to the UK to show proof of a negative test before departure to be allowed entry.
The new testing requirement is in addition to plans to force people arriving from a “red list” of 33 countries to quarantine in government-run hotels and take two tests.
Hancock announced contracts have now been signed with 16 hotels to house arrivals with 4,600 rooms secured.
It will cost each arrival £1,750 to quarantine in a hotel, which will have to be paid out of their own pocket.
“People who flout these rules are putting us all at risk,” Hancock said. “I make no apologies for the strength of these measures because we’re dealing with one of the strongest threats to our public health that we’ve faced as a nation.”
Taking questions from MPs, Hancock also suggested lifting lockdown restrictions might now also rely on getting “good news” about how effective the vaccination programme is against new variants of the virus.
Other new penalties include a £1,000 fine for any international arrival who fails to take a mandatory test.
A £2,000 penalty for any international arrival who fails to take the second mandatory test as well as automatically extending their quarantine period to 14 days.
And a £5,000 fixed penalty notice – rising to £10,000 – for arrivals who fail to quarantine in a designated hotel.
There have been 147 cases of the South African variant found so far in the UK.
On Monday South Africa suspended use of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine after a preliminary trial suggested it offered a reduced level of protection against infection and mild illness from the variant first found in the country.
Jonathan Van-Tam, the deputy chief medical officer, has said it is unlikely to become dominant in the UK as it does not spread as quickly as the strain first discovered in Kent.
But he added it was “likely” the AstraZeneca jab would give “substantial” protection against serious illness from the South Africa variant.