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New crackdown

Ten years in jail for lying about Covid hotspot travel

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The ‘red list’ countries include Portugal (pic: Terry Murden)

Travellers face fines of up to £10,000 and up to ten years in prison under a tough new crackdown on Covid defiers unveiled by UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock today.

The UK government will  introduce a new criminal offence of concealing information about visiting one of the countries on the UK’s ‘red list’ of countries where the mutant strain of Covid is prevalent.

It is among a number of measures being introduced in England aimed at tackling those who ignore or attempt to get around the regulations. The Scottish government is still “considering” what action to take against offenders.

In the meantime, both governments have announced new measures that will require those staying in quarantine hotels to be charged £1,750 for their stay.

The measures, which come into force on Monday, apply to all arrivals into Scotland. In England they apply to those returning from 33 red list countries.

Six hotels close to Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow airports with a combined capacity of 1,300 rooms will be used to implement the quarantine.

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Final costs for those not travelling alone are currently being worked through, as well as the details for a Managed Isolation Welfare Fund which will be launched for those who cannot afford the charge. 

The Scottish Government said that as regulations to support the introduction of managed isolation are developed a range of offences and penalties to help ensure compliance “will be considered”.

However, Mr Hancock has moved swiftly to impose new penalties in England. There will be:

– a £1,000 penalty 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 government sanctioned-hotel for 10 days.

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Travellers who lie on their passenger locator forms about visiting a red list country face up to 10 years in jail.

Arrivals from high-risk countries on the ‘red list’ will have to test negative 72 hours before travelling, and then be screened again twice on day two and day eight.

All other travellers will also have to show a negative result before coming to the UK, and then face two more tests while isolating at home or in other private accommodation. 

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Tough penalties await anyone breaking the rules

Outlining the new measures in Scotland, Scottish Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said: “The UK Government has only committed to adopting this for travellers returning from “red list” countries. However, we know that is not sufficient and we will go further.”

The Scottish Government will create an aviation working group to address the issues the sector is facing.

Despite the draconian new regime, other measures may be introduced to allow people to travel to safe countries.

Vaccinated Britons could get scannable QR codes as soon as next month, allowing them to travel abroad as part of coronavirus ‘vaccine passport’ schemes funded by the taxpayer. 

At least eight firms have been awarded Government grants to develop schemes that would allow users to carry digital proof that they have received an approved Covid-19 jab. 

However, they should be able to use the existing test and release scheme so they can take tests two days and five days after arrival and then be free of restrictions if they are negative. 

Mr Hancock announced that 4,600 rooms have now been secured by the government from 16 hotels so the ‘quarantine hotel’ system can get up and running as planned on Monday. 



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