UK to require all arrivals quarantine as virus deaths rise
LONDON- Agence France-Presse
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Jan. 15 said that all arrivals to the U.K. will have to quarantine and show negative virus tests from next week as hospitalizations and deaths continued to soar but new cases fell.
The measures which enter into force early on Monday come after Britain banned all arrivals from South America and Portugal on Friday over fears of importing a new coronavirus variant from Brazil.
"This means that if you come to this country you must have proof of a negative Covid virus test that you have taken in the 72 hours before leaving," the prime minister said flanked by top medical and scientific officials.
"Upon arrival you must then quarantine for 10 days not leaving your home for any reason at all," he added, though travelers can take another test after 5 days to get out earlier.
The U.K. had previously made an exception for travelers from certain countries and territories with low numbers of cases allowing them to arrive freely through "corridors", without showing negative virus tests or quarantining afterwards.
These included Australia, New Zealand, Thailand and Singapore as well as Bermuda and Gibraltar.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps tweeted that the stricter rules are because it is "impossible" for the government’s Joint Biosecurity Centre to "provide live scientific updates to predict which countries or regions will now originate new variants."
The U.K. has been slow to require arriving travelers show virus tests, unlike many other countries, focusing instead on travellers from countries with high virus rates quarantining after arrival.
A week ago, it announced that travelers heading to England and Scotland would have to show negative tests pre-departure, while the measure will only come into force on Monday.
The announcement came as government figures showed fatalities within 28 days of a positive virus test had risen by nearly a third in the last week, taking the mortality toll to 87,295, the highest in Europe.
Health officials announced another 1,280 deaths on Friday.
While infections have surpassed 3.3 million, with another 55,761 recorded Friday, new cases have fallen nearly 14 percent in the last week.
Johnson urged the public to keep obeying the national lockdown rules despite hopes raised by the vaccines and falling cases this week.
"This is not the time for the slightest relaxation of our national resolve and our individual efforts, so please stay at home," he said.
All of Britain is under tough lockdown restrictions and people are supposed to stay at home except for over-riding reasons such as work, childcare and exercise.
Officials believe the declining case rates are due to the stringent rules, but concede there will be a time lag before hospitalizations and deaths may also drop.
In a bid to inoculate the most vulnerable against Covid-19, Britain is rapidly rolling out its program.
It has so far issued more than three million doses as part of a drive to vaccinate the four groups of most vulnerable people by the middle of next month, and every adult by the autumn.
"Jab by jab, we will win this fight against Covid," Johnson said in a video released Friday, vowing that this "extraordinary national effort is only going to accelerate."