UK seeks to increase quarantine checks on travellers arriving in England

Checks on people quarantining at home could double under new plans

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 17:Travelers arrive at Heathrow Airport on January 17, 2021 in London, England. Tomorrow morning the UK will close its so-called "travel corridors" with countries from which arriving travelers were exempt from quarantine requirements. People flying into the UK will now be required to quarantine for 10 days unless they test negative for covid-19 after five days, or unless they qualify for a business-travel exemption. (Photo by Hollie Adams/Getty Images)
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The number of checks on people who have to quarantine at home after travelling into England could double.

The government is looking for contractors to carry out further visits to people who have to quarantine for 10 days, either at home or at a managed hotel.

Under the new contract, the government could “more than double the number of compliance checks on those who must quarantine at home in England following international travel”, according to the Home Office.

Police officers already check on those self-isolating at home, making up to 1,000 home visits per day.

Travellers who arrive from abroad must quarantine or face a £1,000 ($1,392) fine that could rise to £10,000 for repeat offences.

Of its search to find new contractors to carry out compliance visits, which was launched on Thursday, the Home Office said that anyone who is found not to be quarantining at home may find that “the relevant information” is passed to the police.

A fixed penalty notice could be issued by the police who will investigate the situation.

The contractors will not have any formal enforcement powers.

The tender process runs to March 25 and the contract is expected to be in place by early April.

The aim is to ensure that travellers are sticking to the coronavirus rules.

Checks are already being carried out by the Isolation Assurance Service, which contacts all travellers staying in England and Northern Ireland who have returned from a non-red-list country.

People are called to check their status and to provide advice on the need to self-isolate as well as what to do if they experience Covid-19 symptoms.

They are also given information about taking tests on day two and day eight of their self-isolation period.

This month, Sitel UK, the contractors responsible for carrying out checks on travellers, said it was “in discussions” with the government on increasing the number of calls made to ensure people are sticking to the 10-day self-isolation laws after arriving in the country.

People are currently called up to three times over a three-day period until they successfully answer the phone and confirm they understand the rules and are abiding by them.

Ian Conduit, Sitel UK’s director of business development, told the Commons Home Affairs Committee: “We are in discussions with [Public Health England] and [the Department of Health and Social Care] about contacting everybody for every day of their isolation and we are just waiting for that policy to be defined so, effectively, if it is agreed, [we can] roll that out.”

The company calls people who must isolate at home after travel and not those who are subject to hotel quarantine because they have arrived from a red-list country.

The number of calls made fluctuates each day depending on the number of arrivals, but can range from 6,000 to 17,000, Mr Conduit said. The company deals on average with up to 20,000 contacts a day, he said, although this could be expanded if needed.