All travellers entering the UK, including passengers from Nigeria, will have to take two COVID-19 tests on arrival as the government seeks to bolster its borders against new variants of the disease.
The new system will mean all arrivals must have a negative test before their departure — which is already the case- and take further tests on days two and eight of their self-isolation after entering the UK.
Passengers will be responsible for payment of the tests.
The changes mark a significant tightening of the current regime, under which most people arriving in the country self-isolate for 10 days in a private home without having to take any post-flight tests.
At present only those arriving from risky “red list” countries such as South Africa or Brazil will — from February 15 — have to stay in government-mandated hotels for 10 days under close security guard.
The imminent announcement that all passengers will need to take the multiple COVID-19 tests comes as concerns grow among Ministers over the threat from new, more virulent mutations of the disease.
Meanwhile, Ministers are closer to striking their first deals with hotels to provide quarantine accommodation for passengers arriving from the most risky countries.
An announcement is expected on Wednesday, two weeks after the system was announced, following days of wrangling with the industry.
The government admitted it still had not signed up any hotels to take part in its new system, under which British residents returning from more than 30 high-risk countries would be bussed to guarded accommodation where they would have to stay for 10 days.
Hoteliers said the government was offering to pay only for rooms used for quarantining passengers despite requiring the hotels be open only to such guests, resulting in a potential loss of revenue.
Venues also face having large numbers of empty rooms because the government plans to contract more hotels than required for the expected number of arrivals in case they underestimate how many people will need accommodation.
“It doesn’t give hotels much time if the announcement is Wednesday to do that in a way that won’t upset the guests who will need new accommodation.”
Hotels are currently permitted to allow key workers and those who must travel for business to stay.
“Hotel bosses are not keen on doing this. If they go along with it, it will only be to try to buy some goodwill with ministers,” said one industry figure.
The government resisted pressure to apply its new hotel quarantine to all passengers coming into the UK, instead introducing a more targeted programme for those returning from about 30 “red list” countries with mutant variations of coronavirus.
However, the list is updated every Thursday and could be extended in the coming weeks, not least given the newfound concerns about the efficacy of certain vaccines against the variant first detected in South Africa.