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Starting February 15th, 2021, some – but not all – arrivals into the UK will be forced to quarantine at a government controlled hotel facility at their own expense, rather than released to isolate on their own for a period of 10 days, or less with ‘test to release’.

The government has also unveiled a requirement for all UK arrivals, even those not coming from red list countries, to take a minimum of 3 covid-19 tests: one no more than 72 hours prior to departure (before flight), and then two tests after arrivals on days 2 and 8.

The rules about who will be required to enter into hotel quarantine are quite important, as are the details about what’s in store for those who choose to travel to or from a red list country, including at least £1750 in mandatory hotel bills.

Here’s everything you need to know about the UK’s upcoming mandatory hotel quarantine, how long it’ll be around, and where it applies…

a sign with flags on it

February 15th For ‘Red List Countries’

The first thing to know about the UK’s new mandatory, enforced hotel quarantine is that it applies to ‘Red List’ countries, as established by the UK list. In theory, the ‘red list’ is based on the most recent data about risks of importing new strains of virus, or places where spread is very high.

On February 15th, 2021 these 33 countries are scheduled to be a part of the ‘red list’, which will require anyone entering from these countries, or who has been in one of these countries in the previous 10 days to enter a government supervised hotel facility for 11 days of quarantine.

  • Angola
  • Argentina
  • Bolivia
  • Botswana
  • Brazil
  • Burundi
  • Cape Verde
  • Chile
  • Colombia
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Ecuador
  • Eswatini
  • French Guiana
  • Guyana
  • Lesotho
  • Malawi
  • Mauritius
  • Mozambique
  • Namibia
  • Panama
  • Paraguay
  • Peru
  • Portugal (including Madeira and the Azores)
  • Rwanda
  • Seychelles
  • South Africa
  • Suriname
  • Tanzania
  • United Arab Emirates (UAE)
  • Uruguay
  • Venezuela
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe

Do note: if you’re not a citizen or someone with a resident visa for the UK, you’ll currently be denied entry if coming from one of these countries within 10 days of setting foot in one, and that means virtually everyone quarantining will be a UK resident.

Unfortunately, the UK has been known to change its mind about which countries are on each list with shocking speed and regularity, so very few destinations are truly ‘safe’ from the risk of being added, at present.

Do UK Citizens & Residents Have To Stay In Hotels Too?

Yes. In fact, the mandatory hotel quarantine will almost entirely apply to UK citizens and residents, based on the fact that entry into the country from these areas is banned for non-citizens or those with resident rights.

Coming from these countries, all arrivals are also unable to use the ‘test to release’ option, which would shorten quarantine. Basically, you’ll be forced into the 11 day hotel quarantine at a Heathrow Airport hotel at your own expense.

Reports suggested the ‘test to release’ program would temporarily be disbanded for all other arrivals, which means all arrivals into the UK may be forced to complete 10 full days of isolation, regardless of where they’re coming from. That’s now proven semi true.

The program still exists, and you can take a test after day 5, but must also take a test on day 8, which effectively makes it useless. It’s yet another government calamity from a group teetering on incompetence.

double decker buses on a street in front of a large building
Image by Alfred Derks from Pixabay

‘Red List’ Quarantine Costs

There’s conflicting reports of preparedness for the new hotel quarantine, including reports that the UK Government has yet to secure the necessary hotel rooms. The booking website for the program launched on February 11th, but immediately failed.

The cost to use the UK Red List Hotel Quarantine is £1750 for a solo traveler, £650 for subsequent adults over 12, and £325 for under 5-12’s. and that these rates will include basic meals during the enforced stay.

These UK Hotel Quarantine for red list arrival stays MUST be booked prior to travel on the UK Government website, when it returns to action after 24+ hours of initial failure.

Arriving passengers are not expected to have a choice in which hotel they quarantine, and hotels will be selected by the UK Government based on availabilities at the time. Around 1,400 air passengers per day are expected in the program, though that may change as potential arrivals catch wind of the details.

Can You Order Delivery During UK Hotel Quarantine?

There will be delivery options from UberEats or any other provider during the UK hotel quarantine, but the program says it’s not obligated to bring the food when it arrives to the hotel. In other words, your food might get cold, and food is provided anyway.

This has been a fundamental issue in setting up the program, because security needs to be created out of nowhere, with strict protocols. Meals will be delivered at set times to the door of each hotel quarantine arrival, and it’s unexpected that the menu will live up to Bib Gourmand or Michelin Star standards.

It’s understood that the UK Government is paying hotels £30 per night for the room and £20 per day for all three meals.

Can You Smoke During UK Hotel Quarantine?

Miles From Blighty reports that arrangements are being considered where security staff could escort quarantining passengers to a secured area approved for outdoor smoking. That’s now been confirmed.

If exceptions to the in-room quarantine are granted for smokers but not non-smokers, many non-smokers may want to consider requesting a smoke break, even if they don’t actually smoke, simply to enjoy a few minutes of outside air.

a close up of a passport

Can The UK Change The Red List?

Short answer: yes. If there’s anything the UK Government has proven during its tenure around covid-19, it’s that a change in policy is almost always in the air.

The ‘Travel Corridor’ program, which was designed to create a list of countries where isolation would not be required upon arrival has faltered, and overnight changes made it impossible to trust or navigate anyway.

People who chose destinations based on the concept of not needing to quarantine upon entry or reentry into the UK found themselves caught out, and subject to 14 days of isolation time overnight, and time again as situations changed.

Travel to any country which could likely find itself on the red list now carries the risk of enforced hotel quarantine upon arrival.

How Long Will The UK Hotel Quarantine Last?

This is all rumor at this point, but based on the epidemiological situation in the UK, and expected vaccination results. Government insider suggest that the UK hotel quarantine policy will likely last for around 1 month, or perhaps up to 2, but unlikely longer.

The UK hopes to have the highest risk categories vaccinated by April, which means the program could be dismantled by mid April, as the need to protect the most vulnerable dissipates.

Basically, travel to the UK by May, or summer 2021 could likely involve far less risk than travel before then, bu with this group there’s no guarantee. If things go as planned, the UK Hotel Quarantine for ‘Red List’ travel should be gone by summer at the latest. Until then, better hope your travel destination doesn’t get added!

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. I am possibly flying back from the Bahamas via Miami and the Bahamas has a very low Covid rate. But if the USA became a red alert country and hence hotel quarantining would be triggered would my flight changeover at Miami make me liable to a hotel quarantine please?

    1. Yes, if at any point of your itinerary the USA or Bahamas were to be added to the the red list. Otherwise, you’d still be expected to quarantine but in your home.

  2. It’s strange that Portugal is on the list – due to its association with Brazil.
    It has no Brazil variant cases, and no flights to Brazil, so why is Portugal on the red list when Spain accepts daily flights from Brazil and is not?

  3. Do children under 5 have to quarentine in hotel room, or can they go to stay with relatives.

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