New Zealand Government Has Been Contacted By UK Officials For Advice on Quarantine Hotels
The New Zealand government has been contacted by UK health officials for advice around their quarantine hotel system as the UK prepares to run a similar scheme for Brits returning from high risk countries.
The request for discussions with New Zealand officials comes as UK Hospitality, the trade body representing the country's hotels, said as of today they had no information on how the system might work and leading hotel chains around Heathrow airport told PoliticsHome they have not been contacted to assist in any type of scheme so far.
There are reportedly just two weeks to go until the UK is expected to roll out a 10-day quarantine scheme for people arriving into the UK from 30 high risk countries.
This would see travellers spend their isolation period at hotels, at their own expense, potentially at a cost of £1500.
PoliticsHome has been told by the New Zealand High Commission that staff from the Department of Health and Social Care have contacted their country in a bid to find out how their system operates.
New Zealand has made all visitors to the country quarantine for two weeks since April 2020 and contracted hotels in around five cities to run the scheme.
Boris Johnson said health secretary Matt Hancock was due to roll out plans on how the system will work in the Commons tomorrow at the Downing Street press conference, however a source from Number 10 later clarified that had been a misunderstanding.
The Times reporting of a delay in the quarantine coming into place until the middle of February because surge testing and ensuring hotels can supply three meals a day "isn’t straightforward”.
A Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesperson from the New Zealand government said: "Our High Commission in London has received an initial contact from officials within the Department of Health and Social Care with an interest in learning more about how the New Zealand Managed Isolation Quarantine (MIQ) system has been set up. The High Commission will be pleased to facilitate these discussions.
"In New Zealand several agencies work together to deliver our MIQ including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, and the Ministry of Health."
New Zealand's prime minister Jacinda Ardern announced the country's hotel quarantine system almost a year ago with costs ranging from $3,100 (around £1,630) for the first person in a room, and up to $5,000 (around £2,600) for two adults and two children.
During their stay people are tested for Covid-19 two or three times depending which country they have arrived from.
There are exemptions for hardship and compassionate reasons, which would be decided on by the Cabinet Office in the UK version.
Last week it emerged the New Zealand system is now fully booked until the end of May, with no more slots available.
PoliticsHome contacted a variety of global hotel chains that have premises close to Heathrow Airport this week to see if they had been asked to take part in a quarantine scheme.
Travelodge, which has two hotels at Heathrow, and Premier Inn, which has three, said they had not been contacted, and UK Hospitality said they were waiting for more details from the Department for Health and Social Care.
A spokesman for the Accor group, which includes Ibis, Mercure and Novotel – which all have hotels at the airport - did not disclose if they had been contacted but said their "hotels are ready to support the government's quarantine plan".
"We are available to help implement the need for safe travel just as we have done in other countries, particularly in Australia which followed a similar approach," he said.
Hotel stays would be for the use of British citizens returning to the UK from high risk countries, like South Africa and nations in South America which have differing variants of coronavirus. This is because nationals from high risk nations are already banned from travelling to the UK.
On the proposed start date being February 15, the prime minister's official spokesperson said: “Work is ongoing on this and we’ll be setting out more detail with regard to hotels and the processes around them soon.
“It remains the case that logistical and operational aspects of that work is under way, and has been under way for some time.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “The government is taking a precautionary approach against the risk posed by new variants. We are building on the stringent measures we already have in place – adding another layer of protection against the virus.
“We will set out a detailed implementation plan soon – the law is already clear that it is illegal to travel abroad except for a very limited set of exemptions listed on gov.uk.”
It’s understood the helath department has been in contact with New Zealand and a range of other countries throughout the pandemic.