Priti Patel’s flagship hotel quarantine policy for international arrivals from high-risk ‘red list’ countries has been left in tatters after a change in policy in the Republic of Ireland that has exposed a massive loophole. Patel pushed for the policy as part of a wider COVID-19 border policy which was implemented by then-Health Minister Matt Hancock.
The expensive and controversial policy could be axed at any moment with the Department for Transport pressing Britain’s Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to ditch the scheme which costs £2,285 per person for 10 days and 11 nights in isolation in a government-approved hotel.
England was late in introducing hotel quarantine but since its inception in February, more than 195,000 people have passed through the system. At its peak, more than 10,000 people a week were starting hotel quarantine but that number has since dropped to around 7,000 people per week as more and more countries are removed from the Red List.
There are, however, still 54 countries on the UK’s Red List, meaning that travellers from these countries either have to enter hotel quarantine or spend nearly two weeks in a third country ‘drying out’ before returning home.
But for travellers who need to get back to the UK urgently or can’t afford the cost of a quarantine hotel, a massive new loophole has just opened up through Dublin.
On Saturday, Ireland abruptly ended its own short-lived hotel quarantine policy, releasing the last 50 people in isolation with immediate effect. Ireland’s list of high-risk countries had been rapidly dwindling and only six countries, all in South America, remained before the policy was abandoned.
The decision to release people from hotel quarantine came on the advice of Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan.
Because Ireland is part of the UK’s so-called ‘Common Travel Area’, passengers flying from Dublin to the UK don’t have to pass through passport control and don’t have to complete a passenger locator form. They also don’t need to take any form of COVID-19 travel test.
Although this route into the UK would be illegal, there are no checks in place to prevent someone from doing so.
A spokesperson for DHSC denied that the policy could be scrapped despite the loophole, saying: “We are committed to protecting our country and the progress of our phenomenal vaccine rollout against the risk of new coronavirus variants and there are no plans to end the Managed Quarantine Service.
“We have taken decisive action at the border with our managed quarantine system and every essential check we’ve introduced has strengthened our defences.”
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.