Britain cracks down on travel to stop virus spread

FILE PHOTO: Britain's Home Secretary Priti Patel speaks during a news conference about the ongoing situation with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, inside 10 Downing Street, in London, Britain January 21, 2021. Matt Dunham/Pool via REUTERS

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain announced new measures to reduce travel in and out of the country on Wednesday, hoping that by tightening its borders it can reduce the risk of new variants of the coronavirus spreading and putting its vaccination programme at risk.

Travellers arriving in Britain from high-risk COVID-19 countries will have to quarantine for 10 days in government-provided accommodation, while those wishing to leave will need to explain why in a process checked before departure, interior minister Priti Patel said on Wednesday.

Further details on the “managed isolation process”, where people quarantine in hotels, will be provided next week she said, adding that there would also be more police checks on arrivals from elsewhere.

“It is clear that there are still too many people coming in and out of our country each day,” she told parliament.

“People should be staying at home, unless they have a valid reason to leave. Going on holiday is not a valid reason.”

The list of travel exemptions will also be urgently reviewed, she said, to crack down on movements and ensure only those people with exceptional reasons go abroad.

More restrictions will mean further pain for airlines and the travel industry at a time when many companies are struggling after eleven months of the pandemic.

Airlines UK, which represents British Airways, easyJet and others, repeated calls for government help.

“We can only help connect the UK to the world – and deliver the Global Britain agenda that is so important to our future prosperity – if we have a viable airlines sector,” said Airlines UK chief executive Tim Alderslade.

Reporting by Andy Bruce and William James, writing by Sarah Young; editing by James Davey