New Zealand's policy of placing new arrivals in hotels to complete their quarantine is being looked at by UK officials as an option to control the spread of new coronavirus variants.
Ministers have instructed staff to study a wide range of policies to crackdown on quarantine, reports on Saturday night suggested, with facial-recognition technology and GPS to check that people are staying in isolation may also under consideration.
The Government has already issued travel bans on arrivals from South America, Portugal and Cape Verde due to the emergence of a new coronavirus variant in Brazil.
According to The Sunday Times officials were last week ordered to study New Zealand’s policy of “directed isolation”, where everyone arriving is charged for a stay at an airport hotel and forced to remain in isolation for two weeks.
A Number 10 source said the report was "speculation" and that the UK Government was often looking at other countries' approaches in tackling the pandemic.
A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “We have shown we are prepared to take decisive action at the border where we believe it will aid our fight against coronavirus and protect the rollout of the vaccine. We keep all measures under review.”
In Australia travellers are charged between £1,500 and £2,500 to isolate for between 14 and 24 days.
Reports on Saturday night revealed the UK government is only considering a system where visitors pay the costs themselves.
Other schemes civil servants will examine include Poland’s method of “enhanced monitoring” for those told to isolate.
Each person is contacted once a day and told to send a photograph of themselves at the location where they are confined. These are cross-referenced using GPS data and facial-recognition software, with police visiting anyone who does not comply within 20 minutes.
Both ideas were said to have been discussed at a ministers meeting on Thursday with a senior Government source telling the Sunday Times that such technology would not be used on those self-isolate within Britain.From Monday, the Government plans to scrap all travel corridors that exempt people arriving from certain destinations from quarantine requirements.
The new policy means arrivals from every destination will need to self-isolate for 10 days or receive a negative Covid-19 test result at least five days after entering the UK.
Chris Hopson, the chief executive of NHS Providers, warned the government against lifting the restrictions too quickly. Hopson said: “We need to be careful about saying that just because people have been vaccinated the spread won’t happen and therefore we can pull off all restrictions on social contact immediately.”
Professor Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, said that there will be lots of new variants but the current vaccines should protect against strains.