The UK government is set to unveil tough new procedures later on Friday for international travellers coming into the country as the coronavirus pandemic lockdown is gradually eased, including 14-day mandatory quarantines and possible fines for a breach.
Under the plans, to be formally announced by UK Home Secretary Priti Patel at the daily Downing Street briefing, health officials would be able to carry out spot checks to ensure people comply with their self-isolation at a designated address and impose a 1,000 pound fine on anyone breaking the quarantine.
The new rules, which will also apply to British people returning from abroad, are not expected to come into force until next month.
"The reality is we are saying to people if you are going to go abroad you need to look at the fact you may well need to do quarantine when you come back," UK Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis told the BBC, in reference to the expected announcement.
As part of the plans, which are aimed at guarding against a second wave of coronavirus infections, all arrivals would be asked to fill in a form with their contact information. Road hauliers and medical officials entering the country in relation to work to combat the pandemic would be exempt, as well as those arriving from the common travel area of the Republic of Ireland.
Any other passengers arriving in the UK by plane, ferry or train would need to provide UK Border Force officials with an address where they will self-isolate, otherwise accommodation will be arranged by the government.
The Opposition Labour Party has backed the plans, but shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said there were "lots of questions as to why we didn''t do this sooner".
"I would urge the government to get on with it and give us the details about how it''s going to work in practice," he said.
Airlines have warned quarantine measures could make an already critical situation worse for them, with air travel grounding to a near-halt as a result of the lockdown measures imposed worldwide to curb the spread of the deadly virus.
The British government’s current guidance recommends international travel only when absolutely necessary, and states that nobody should travel if they display any coronavirus symptoms.
There have so far been no quarantine requirements for travellers from abroad, with the government saying it is deemed necessary only now as the rate of infection within the country is brought into control and there is a need to prevent a second wave of infections coming in from overseas.
The rate of infection, so-called R rate, has been kept under the required rate of 1, with UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock saying that the country is ready to move to level three of a five-level test set by the government to ease the country out of lockdown. At the peak of the pandemic, the UK has been on level 4, with the death toll from COVID-19 crossing 36,000.