Prime Minister Boris Johnson has outlined the reopening of the economy in his road map today.
Socialising in parks and public spaces with one other person will also be permitted in early March, when the rules are relaxed to allow people to sit down for a drink or picnic. A further easing of restrictions will take place on 29 March when the school Easter holidays begin – with larger groups allowed to gather in parks and gardens.
Johnson gave an indication as to when hotels and holidays might restart.
Here are the key questions and answers.
Are hotels currently open?
Leisure travel in the UK is currently banned and has been so since the start of January. While most hotels are closed, a few remain open for key workers and for those with no other alternative.
The government advice reads: “Guest accommodation providers such as hotels, B&Bs and caravan parks may remain open for the specific reasons set out in law, including where guests are unable to return to their main residence, use that guest accommodation as their main residence, need accommodation while moving house, are self-isolating as required by law, or would otherwise be made homeless as a result of the accommodation closing.”
When might hotels reopen?
Self-contained accommodation can reopen on 12 April at the earliest. This will be possible for individuals and one household. This relates to accommodation that has no shared facilities.
Hotels and B&Bs can open on 17 May at the earliest, which is also the date that international travel might be unlocked.
These dates only relate to England.
The date is much later than expected. Earlier in February, we reported that a boutique hotel on the Sussex coast was planning to reopen for leisure tourism on 8 March – the same day that schools in England will return.
Harry Cragoe, owner of The Gallivant, in Camber, East Sussex, predicted that lockdown will ease much more quickly, and is inviting bookings from early March.
When might self-catering accommodation open?
Self-catering accommodation, where they have no shared facilities between guests, can reopen from 12 April at the earliest.
This date relates to stays in England.
Mark Drakeford, the Welsh first minister, told BBC Today that he hoped self-contained holiday accommodation in Wales could open by Easter (2-5 April).
What does the reopening depend on?
The pace at which lockdown restrictions are eased in England will depend on four “tests” being met around vaccination, case numbers and new variants.
The government will only proceed with each phase of the roadmap if it is satisfied the vaccination rollout is continuing as planned and that there is evidence to show that vaccines are working to reduce hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated.
Infection rates must also be low enough not to risk a surge in hospitalisations that would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS. The presence of any new variants of Covid-19 will also be a factor under consideration as the date of each planned phase of unlocking draws near.
If any of these criteria are not met, the pace of lockdown could slow, pushing back any planned easing measures.
When might overseas travel be allowed?
The prime minister announced that international travel will remain banned until 17 May at the earliest, which is also the date that hotels and B&Bs will be allowed to reopen.
For the moment, international travel for all but the narrowest of essential reasons remains illegal.
Any travellers returning to the UK from overseas must present a negative test for coronavirus that has been taken within three days of departure (or longer if an en route stop is involved). Quarantine is currently mandatory for all overseas arrivals except for those from Ireland.
The government has now imposed mandatory hotel quarantine for arrivals from the countries on the government’s “red list” – currently numbering 33, including Portugal, South Africa and the UAE. The aim is to limit the spread of new variants of coronavirus.
What is hotel quarantine?
The UK government has contracted 4,600 rooms in 16 hotels, with more available if necessary, for travellers from 33 “red list” countries.
Travellers self-identify in advance. Everyone from the red list countries must pre-book a room through a dedicated online portal, at a cost of £1,750. For a single traveller the price works out at £159 per night.
Heavy penalties apply to anyone who misrepresents where they have visited or who fails to go into hotel quarantine when they should.
The price includes transport from the airport to the “government-approved facility” (the hotel), three meals a day, security and testing. During the stay “quarantinees” will undergo two Covid tests: one on day two, the next on day eight. Those who test positive are likely to have their stay extended, unless hospital treatment is needed.
The cost for additional people in the same room is significantly less than the rate. A second adult pays £650, and £325 for a child aged 5-12. Over 12s are counted as adults, under fives are free.
Travellers are not free to choose either their hotel or their room.
In Scotland the system is different, with all international arrivals required to complete hotel quarantine.
What are hotels doing to limit the spread of Covid-19?
Hand sanitiser stations abound, while reception staff are kept safe behind plastic screens. In-room minibars have been removed and rooms are deep cleaned between guests, as well as being left fallow for up to 72 hours in some cases.
One-way systems have been introduced and doors modified to enable digital rather than physical keys. Staff are given regular health and temperature checks, with some employees put in “bubbles” that work the same shift patterns to limit any potential virus spread.
A number of properties have signed up to one of two schemes designed to outline best practice for hotels here in the UK. Both the AA’s Covid Confident programme and Visit Britain’s We’re Good To Go industry standard give accommodation providers a detailed guide on how to change the way they operate to protect both staff and guests.