Government seeks to increase quarantine checks on travellers to England
The number of checks on people who have to quarantine at home after travelling into England could be set to double.
The Government is looking for contractors to carry out further visits on people who have to quarantine for 10 days either at home or at a managed hotel.
Under the new contract, the Government could “more than double the number of compliance checks on those who must quarantine at home in England following international travel”, according to the Home Office.
Police officers have already been carrying out checks on those self-isolating at home, making up to 1,000 home visits per day.
Travellers who arrive from abroad must quarantine or face a £1,000 fine that could rise to £10,000 for repeat offences.
Of its search to find new contractors to carry out compliance visits, which was launched on Thursday, the Home Office said that anyone who is found not to be quarantining at home may find that “the relevant information” is passed to the police.
A fixed penalty notice could be issued by the police who will look into the situation.
The contractors will not have any formal enforcement powers.
The tender process runs to March 25 and the contract is expected to be in place by early April.
The aim is to ensure that travellers are sticking to the coronavirus rules.
Checks are already being carried out by the Isolation Assurance Service in which they contact everyone who is staying in England and Northern Ireland who has returned from a non-red list country.
People are called in order to check their status and to provide advice on the need to self-isolate and what to do if they are experiencing symptoms.
They are also given information about taking tests on day two and day eight of their self-isolation period.
Earlier this month, Sitel UK, the contractors responsible for carrying out checks on travellers, said it was “in discussions” with the Government on increasing the number of calls made to ensure people are sticking to the 10-day self-isolation laws after arriving in the country.
People are currently called up to three times over a three-day period until they successfully answer the phone and confirm they understand the rules and are abiding by them.
Ian Conduit, Sitel UK’s director of business development, told the Commons Home Affairs Committee: “We are in discussions with PHE (Public Health England) and DHSC (the Department of Health and Social Care) about contacting everybody for every day of their isolation and we are just waiting for that policy to be defined so, effectively, if it is agreed, (we can) roll that out.”
The company calls people who must isolate at home after travel and not those who are subject to hotel quarantine because they have arrived from a “red list” country.
The number of calls made fluctuates each day depending on the number of arrivals, but can range from 6,000 to 17,000, Mr Conduit said, adding the firm deals on average with up to 20,000 contacts a day and this could be expanded if needed.