Matt Hancock warns new quarantine may in place longer if vaccine does not beat variants

Matt Hancock discusses reviewing travel measures

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Secretary of State for Health Matt Hancock has warned the current quarantine hotel rule and travel restrictions enforced in the UK could be in place until the booster vaccine is rolled out. This scenario could happen if the current vaccines, including Pfizer and AstraZeneca, are found to be incapable of protecting against new international variants.

Speaking in the House of Commons today he said: “Firstly we must keep the red list under review but secondly this crucial point that strong protections at the border are part of defending and safely allowing the domestic opening up.

“For those of us that want to see that domestic opening up ensuring we have protection from variants that might arise from overseas is an important part until we can get to a position where we can be confident in vaccine efficacy against all variants, not just against the current variants that are here in large numbers in the UK.”

He continued: “These measures, while necessary now, are measures that can not be in place permanently.

“We need to replace them over time with a system of safe and free international travel. That’s where we need to get to.

“The first task is to vaccinate the population, and if we get good news on the vaccination impact on hospitalisations and deaths to form people who have new mutations then we will be in a better place.”

He continued: “If we do not get such news that we will have to use the updated vaccines to protect against the variants of concern.

“The scientists inform and advise me there are repeatedly, independently around the world of the same type in the E484K area of the virus.

“Now, that gives the scientists a good start in where to target the new updated vaccine.

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“But it may, that is if we have to wait until then.”

However, if the current vaccine is able to beat international variants, then measures are more likely to be relaxed.

“It might be that we get enough efficacy from the vaccine against hospitalisations and death that they work perfectly well to hold this down,” he said.

“We just don’t know that yet.”

If a booster vaccination was needed, much like the current flu vaccine, it is likely this would be implemented in the Autumn months ahead of the peak season for the virus.

At the time of writing the UK has identified 33 “high risk” countries where travel is banned to and from.

However, UK residents who need to return home are able to fly in from these nations.

Arrivals from these countries will be required to self-isolate in a Government approved hotel for 10 days at their own expense.

Mr Hancock explained: “Taking advice from our Australian colleagues, we are introducing three new measures to protect the advances we have made against the virus.

“We must strengthen our defences further. Everyone has a part to play for making our borders safe.”

These measures will come into force from February 15.

Mr Hancock explained: “UK and Irish residents who have been in red list countries must quarantine in a hotel for 10 days from the time of arrival. “Before they travel, they will have to book a hotel room and testing package, costing £1750. This includes coach transfer and three meals a day.”

Arrivals will also be required to take further PCR tests on day two and day eight of quarantine, and tough fines will be instated for anyone who refuses to comply.

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