You could spend up to 10 years in prison or face a hefty fine for lying about recent travel under Britain's new coronavirus policies, officials announced Tuesday.
Those who lie to avoid the latest hotel quarantine order will face a fine between about $6,900 and $13,850 (between £5,000 and £10,000) and a 10-year maximum jail sentence could be enacted for travelers found to have lied about their travel history on the UK's mandatory passenger locator form.
"I make no apologies for the strength of these measures because we're dealing with one of the strongest threats to our public health that we've faced as a nation," Health Secretary Matt Hancock said, The Associated Press reported. "People who flout these rules are putting us all at risk."
Beginning Feb. 15, all travelers to the UK, including residents, will be required to quarantine in hotel rooms for 10 nights when returning from "COVID-19 hotspots." The quarantine program will cost travelers about $2,400 (£1,750) for the entire 10-night stay. The program costs cover accommodation, food, and COVID-19 testing.
When asked about the lengthy jail sentence, UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps defended the term, saying that it was a "serious" offense."
"I think the British public would expect pretty strong action" for those who seek to evade hotel quarantine, he said, according to The BBC.
Airlines and travel companies will also be held responsible for ensuring that passengers have made the necessary pre-travel arrangements for quarantine. Fines for both travelers and companies who do not comply include a $1,380 (£1,000) fine for failing to take a COVID-19 test before travel.
There are currently 33 countries on the UK's "red list" from where travel is effectively banned, including Argentina, South Africa and Portugal.
All travelers to the UK must show negative COVID-19 test results, taken within 72 hours before traveling. Some travelers may be eligible for a "test to release scheme," which will release them from quarantine after five days if arriving from a non-red list country.
Cailey Rizzo is a contributing writer for Travel Leisure, currently based in Brooklyn. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram, or at caileyrizzo.com.
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