Minister defends quarantine hotel plan but refuses to comment on number of rooms booked

5 February 2021, 09:24 | Updated: 5 February 2021, 09:32

By Kate Buck

Foreign Office Minister James Cleverly today refused to comment on whether the government has managed to secure any rooms at all for the hotel quarantine scheme, with just 10 days before it is due to start.

Speaking to Nick Ferrari at breakfast, Mr Cleverly insisted the Government had organised the hotel quarantine in the correct way.

It was announced last night that this would go live from 15 February - but Mr Cleverly said the formal requests for rooms only went out last night.

There needs to be an estimated 28,000 hotel rooms across the country used for incoming travellers from "red list" countries to quarantine for 10 days to avoid potentially spreading a Covid variant in the UK.

The Chief Executive of the London hotel group earlier told LBC's Nick Ferrari he was only asked yesterday lunchtime about providing hotel rooms for the scheme.

But Mr Cleverly insisted that "hotels know if they're near an airport", when asked why chains hadn't been asked sooner to express an interest.

When asked why this hadn't been done a week ago - when the scheme was confirmed - he added: "We've been working to make sure we know what we need to ask of the hotels.

"The idea that this has come as a surprise to the hotel industry in concept is an unfair accusation."

Defending the Government's handling of the implementation, Mr Cleverly said: "We call a warning order to say this is coming, more details to follow. Which is exactly what we’ve done.

"The more details have come out as I say overnight. We’re asking at this stage for expressions of interest, that doesn’t take very long to tell, particularly as I say if you’re a hotel and you’re next to a major airport, you’ve got a pretty good idea that you’re the kind of hotel we’re looking for."

The Government has already faced criticism for not bringing in the hotel scheme sooner, like New Zealand and Australia did and had far more success in controlling infection rates.