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England’s quarantine hotels open in bid to keep COVID variants out

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - JANUARY 28: Boris Johnson tries his hand at one of the tests with Kerri Symington , quality control technician (not pictured) as he visits the French biotechnology laboratory Valneva in Livingston where they will be producing a Covid 19 vaccine on a large scale on January 28, 2021 in Livingston, Edinburgh, United Kingdom. Boris Johnson visits frontline keyworkers stating that there are great benefits of co-operating across the whole of the UK to beat the coronavirus pandemic. Opinion polls in Scotland show rising support for independence ahead of May's Holyrood elections. (Photo by Wattie Cheung-WPA Pool/Getty Images)

LONDON, Feb 15 (Reuters) - Passengers arriving in England from Monday from any of 33 "red list" countries will have to spend 10 days quarantined in a hotel room under new border restrictions designed to stop new variants of the coronavirus.

The launch of the system, which had already been set out earlier this month, marks the government’s latest effort to prevent another relapse into crisis after a second wave of a more contagious COVID-19 variant forced the country into a prolonged lockdown at the start of the year.

New cases, deaths and hospitalisations are falling sharply and the rollout of vaccines has reached more than 15 million people, but ministers are still wary that new mutations from overseas might unravel that progress.

“As this deadly virus evolves, so must our defences,” health minister Matt Hancock said in a statement. “The rules coming into force today will bolster the quarantine system and provide another layer of security against new variants at the border.”

The government has lined up 4,963 hotel rooms that must be booked in advance as part of a ‘quarantine package’. These hotels will have a “visible security presence”, the government said. A further 58,000 rooms are on standby.

Countries on the red list include South Africa and Brazil – both of which have seen variants of the virus that could reduce the efficacy of existing vaccines.

Ministers have been criticised by opponents for being too slow to close the door to new variants, having first announced plans for hotel quarantine in January.

Arrivals from countries not on the red list are required to quarantine at home for 10 days and take two COVID-19 tests.

The tougher quarantine restrictions also carry heavy fines and penalties with potential prison sentences of up to 10 years. (Reporting by William James; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

Information pertaining to Covid-19, vaccines, how to control the spread of the virus and potential treatments is ever-changing. Under the South African Disaster Management Act Regulation 11(5)(c) it is prohibited to publish information through any medium with the intention to deceive people on government measures to address COVID-19. We are therefore disabling the comment section on this article in order to protect both the commenting member and ourselves from potential liability. Should you have additional information that you think we should know, please email [email protected]

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"Information pertaining to Covid-19, vaccines, how to control the spread of the virus and potential treatments is ever-changing. Under the South African Disaster Management Act Regulation 11(5)(c) it is prohibited to publish information through any medium with the intention to deceive people on government measures to address COVID-19. We are therefore disabling the comment section on this article in order to protect both the commenting member and ourselves from potential liability. Should you have additional information that you think we should know, please email [email protected]"

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