London, (The Southern African Times) – England’s new COVID-19 hotel quarantine system for arrivals from high-risk countries is running smoothly after it was introduced earlier on Monday, the health minister said, with border control queues of less than an hour at Heathrow Airport.
Britain wants to protect its COVID-19 vaccine program from new variants of the coronavirus entering the country. To do so it has brought in stricter travel rules, including a requirement for arrivals into England from 33 countries to spend 10 days quarantined in a hotel room.
Hours after the rules became active queues at Heathrow, Britain’s biggest airport, were less than an hour long, and health minister Matt Hancock said the system was working.
“As of 6:30, when I got my latest update, this is working smoothly, we’ve been working with the airports and with the border force to make sure everybody knows the process,” Hancock told Times Radio.
Prior to the new rules coming into force, there had been concerns about how it would work.
The website for booking hotel quarantine packages, which cost passengers $2,412 (£1,750), has crashed several times and critics said the government had not secured enough hotel rooms.
Over the weekend, arrivals at Heathrow had faced queues of up to five hours to get through border control, and media reports said that arrivals from “red list” countries were not separated from those from lower risk areas.
A Heathrow spokeswoman said that the airport would be monitoring the policy but so far, so good.
Heathrow, whose passenger numbers were down 90 percent in January, had worried that if queues became too long, some flights would have to be stopped.
Under the new rules, only British and Irish nationals, or those with residence rights in Britain can travel into Britain from the 33 “red list” countries, which include Brazil and South Africa.