By Lina Saigol
The first guests checked in to government-sanctioned accommodation in the U.K. on Monday, as part of tough new quarantine measures aimed at preventing new strains of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus from entering the country.
Under the new rules, U.K. nationals arriving in England from 33 high-risk countries , including South Africa and Brazil, will have to quarantine in select hotels for 10 days at a cost of £1,750 ($2,433) per adult.
The government has struck deals with 16 hotels so far, providing 4,963 rooms , and a further 58,000 rooms are on standby, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said.
International travelers who have not visited a country on the “red list” must still quarantine for 10 days at home and complete two mandatory COVID-19 tests on the second and eighth day after arriving.
“As this deadly virus evolves, so must our defenses,” the U.K.’s health secretary, Matt Hancock, said, adding: “With the emergence of new variants, we must go further. The rules coming into force today will bolster the quarantine system and provide another layer of security against new variants at the border.”
His comments came a day after the U.K. reached the target of giving at least one dose of a COVID vaccine to 15 million people in the four most vulnerable groups. That means that just under a quarter of the U.K. population has now received a dose of either the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca /zigman2/quotes/203048482/delayed UK:AZN -0.23% , together with Oxford University, or the one made by BioNTech /zigman2/quotes/214419716/composite BNTX -4.81% and U.S. partner Pfizer /zigman2/quotes/202877789/composite PFE +1.50% .
Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed the achievement — which comes just over two months after the U.K.’s first vaccination on Dec. 8 — as a ‘significant milestone’ in the fight against the coronavirus.
The news will increase pressure on the Johnson government to clarify when venues including restaurants and pubs will be able to reopen after the country entered its third national lockdown on Jan. 4. Johnson is due to set out his “roadmap” out of lockdown on Feb. 22.
From a U.K. perspective, reaching the 15 million–vaccination threshold “has lifted spirits over the government’s ability to drag us out of lockdown as early as possible,” analysts at IG Group wrote in a research note to clients on Monday.
The financial toll the pandemic has taken on the country’s struggling hospitality sector was highlighted on Monday as Mitchells & Butlers /zigman2/quotes/209008939/delayed UK:MAB +2.64% , the largest publicly listed pub operator, said it plans to raise £350 million through a share placement in an attempt to “provide the business with the certainty of funding that it needs.”
Data published by industry trade body the British Beer & Pub Association , or BBPA, last week showed beer sales in pubs dropped by 56% in 2020 — a fall of £7.8 billion.
“If measures aren’t announced on 22nd February in the Government’s recovery roadmap providing the clarity our sector needs on when it can reopen, as well as support it needs to survive until then, we fear things could get even worse,” a BBPA representative said.