Hotel stocks rose while airline stocks slid on Tuesday, as UK health secretary Matt Hancock unveiled strict hotel quarantine plans and extended coronavirus testing for travellers arriving in Britain.
Travellers from every country will have to take two tests during their 10-day quarantine period after arrival in Britain, the minister confirmed. It comes on top of testing requirements prior to travel.
The measures will apply to all travellers, rather than only arrivals from the narrower list of 33 countries which face mandatory hotel quarantine in a bid to contain the South African variant of COVID-19.
Hancock also unveiled further details in the Commons of the hotel quarantine rules, which take effect from next Monday (15 February).
16 hotels have been contracted by the government to take new arrivals, who will each have to pay £1,750 ($2,410) to cover the costs of their quarantine period. Travellers will be escorted to their hotels and risk prison sentences of up to 10 years for deliberately breaching the rules by giving false information, according to Hancock.
Shares in Ryanair (RYA.L) and International Airlines Group (IAG.L), which owns British Airways, Iberia and Aer Lingus, had fallen in morning trading in London. EasyJet (EZJ.L) shares were down 1.2%, amid worries the moves will further hammer passenger numbers in the battered travel sector.
The UK government also faces growing pressure to both expand and speed up its hotel quarantine plan. Not every country where the South African variant has spread is on the “red list,” with scientists and the Labour opposition demanding travellers from every country face hotel quarantine.
It comes after a small study suggested the AstraZeneca (AZN.L) vaccine did not protect the young against mild to moderate illness caused by the South African variant of COVID-19.
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Scientists and the UK government are urging the public to retain trust in the vaccine however, with confidence in its effectiveness against more severe cases of the variant and any level of illness among the mutations dominant in the UK. A minister said on Monday at least 147 cases of the South African variant had been identified in the UK.
There are also concerns about the readiness of the hotel quarantine plans. Contracts were only announced on Tuesday, six days before they come into effect.
Ministers have come under fire for delays introducing the new rules. Labour leader Keir Starmer said by the time the policy is implemented, it will have been 50 days since the government first became aware of the more viral South African mutation.
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