UK Covid Quarantine Hotel Reservation System Crashes
The UK government’s Covid-19 hotel quarantine program reservation system crashed hours after it went live on Thursday.
All passengers arriving in England from a list of 33 at high risk “red list” country must quarantine in a hotel for 10 days from Monday, amid growing concerns from ministers over new variants of the coronavirus first identified abroad.
The policy is part of a series of tough new border measures that include a requirement for all travelers to take two tests for Covid-19 – on days two and eight after arrival – in addition to one they must take 72 hours before departure to UK.
But the official website offering passengers the possibility of book in a government approved hotel broke down Thursday afternoon and was unable to take reservations into the evening.
The Ministry of Health and Welfare said: “The website is currently under construction to correct a minor technical problem.
“The rooms are available from Monday February 15 and the portal will be open well before the online date. “
This is the latest setback in a ploy that has drawn criticism from the travel industry and elements of the Conservative Party.
The government had to defend the threat of a 10-year prison sentence for covering up a trip to one of the Red List destinations, which mainly covers countries in South America and Africa.
Two former Tory attorneys general questioned whether the punishment was proportionate, while senior Conservative MP Charles Walker said Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s announcement on jail terms was “a really stupid thing to say “.
Airports and airlines are also concerned that ministers are still trying to figure out how to implement the quarantine program, with less than four days before the first passengers will have to land in quarantine in the UK.
Industry had been told the system would be deployed at 10 airports, but the government said on Thursday that only five would be used initially: Heathrow, Gatwick, London City, Birmingham and Farnborough in Hampshire, a luxury facility that caters to to individuals. jets.
Direct flights to Red List countries are prohibited, meaning passengers will be mixed with people arriving from other parts of the world on planes and on the ground.
An adult bedroom costs £ 1,750, an additional adult is charged £ 650 and children aged 5-12 are charged £ 325.
G4S, which already runs hundreds of Covid-19 test centers for the government, has reportedly won part of the work of transporting people to quarantine hotels, as well as on-site security. Mitie, another prominent government contractor, will also work on the project. G4S and Mitie both declined to comment.
The government has also unveiled a new range of tough penalties for breaking the rules: anyone who has not pre-booked their quarantine accommodation through the government website will be fined up to £ 4,000 and will still have to pay hotel costs, arriving at an airport other than the five designated sites will result in a fine of up to £ 10,000.
Foreign diplomats and certain UK government officials, contractors and carriers are exempt from the rules.
The current policy only applies to England, although the Welsh and Northern Irish decentralized administrations are expected to implement similar rules.
The Scottish government has said it will go further and require all people arriving from any country outside the UK’s joint travel area with Ireland to go through the new hotel quarantine system.
Country on the UK’s “red list”
Angola, Argentina, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Burundi, Cape Verde, Chile, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ecuador, Eswatini, French Guiana, Guyana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal, Rwanda, Seychelles, South Africa, Suriname, Tanzania, United Arab Emirates, Uruguay, Venezuela, Zambia, Zimbabwe