London, Jan 26 (IANS) UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has confirmed that the government is mulling measures to require arrivals into the country to quarantine in hotels amid concerns over new coronavirus variants from abroad.
“We have to realize there is at least the theoretical risk of a new variant that is a vaccine-busting variant coming in. We’ve got to be able to keep that under control,” Johnson said at a vaccination site in north London on Monday.
“We want to make sure that we protect our population, protect this country against reinfection from abroad. That idea of looking at hotels is certainly one thing we’re actively now working on.
“We need a solution that gives us the maximum possible protection against reinfection from abroad,” he added.
According to a BBC report, the new measure to quarantine in a hotel for 10 days will apply to arrivals from most of Southern Africa and South America, as well as Portugal, since many flights from Brazil come via Lisbon.
Hotel quarantine is already in place in countries including New Zealand and Australia.
Most foreign nationals from high-risk countries already face UK travel bans, under which almost all people must test negative for Covid-19 up to 72 hours before travelling.
Even after this negative test, arrivals still have to quarantine for up to 10 days, although this can be done at home.
In his address on Monday, Johnson also said that the government will be “looking at the potential of relaxing some measures” before mid-February when the top four priority groups covering around 13 million people are expected to be vaccinated, reports Xinhua news agency.
“We’re looking at the data as it comes in, we’re looking at the rates of infection, as you know the JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation) groups one to four will be vaccinated by February 15,” he said.
“Before then we’ll be looking at the potential of relaxing some measures… But don’t forget this country has made huge progress in reducing infection. I don’t think people want to see another big surge in infection,” he added.
His remarks come as England is currently under the third national lockdown since the outbreak of the pandemic in the country.
Similar restriction measures are also in place in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
As of Tuesday morning, the overall coronavirus caseload in the UK has increased to 3,680,101, while the death toll stood at 98,723.