BRITAIN’S hotel quarantine “red list” could be expanded as mutant Covid variants have been found in 27 more countries.
There are currently 33 “red list” countries from which foreign travel is banned and any Brits returning from them will have to quarantine at their own cost in Government-approved hotels.
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It is unclear when the hotels will open as Mr Hancock was due to make an announcement on Thursday, but it has been delayed.
There are growing concerns over the spread of the mutant variants.
Spain has confirmed its first Covid variant case this week and on Tuesday suspected flights to Brazil and South Africa for at least 15 days.
Germany, Switzerland and Israel have already reported more than 30 variant cases.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Wednesday he was “up for strengthening” the current measures.
Boris Johnson last night pledged to keep “very tough” border controls in place to stop mutant Covid but that it was “unrealistic” to ever shut them completely.
Mr Hancock said: “I’m up for strengthening [mandatory isolation] further. We do work very closely with these scientists.
“Measures are already in place to require the isolation of every single passenger who comes into this country.
“Further enforcement of that of course can always be introduced and strengthened, but the advice is clear that everyone coming through should isolate.”
Speaking at a press conference last night the PM insisted Britain is already operating a “very tough” set of border controls to keep new variants out.
And he insisted it is unrealistic to think the UK can ever completely close its borders because we rely so heavily on imports of food and medicine.
Speaking at a Downing St press conference, he said: “We have among the toughest border regimes now anywhere in the world.
“We’re restricting as much as we can any risk of importing new infection into this country without totally secluding the UK economy.”
The PM said Britain gets 75% of of its medicines from Europe and 45% of food supplies from overseas.
Meanwhile, some 250,000 businesses here in the UK rely on imports for their survival.
He added: “So we can’t cut ourselves off completely, but what we can do is say it’s illegal to go on holiday, which it is.
“It’s illegal to come to this country from a great list of countries around the world, and if you do come here from one of those countries you will be taken and put in special accommodation.
“But even if you’re not coming from there and you’re coming into this country, even if you’re a UK national returning to this country, just think of what you’ve got to do.
“You’ve got to take a test 72 hours before flying, you’ve got to do a Passenger Locator Form, and you can be kicked off the flight if that doesn’t happen.
“And then you’ve got to quarantine and you’ll have the isolation service on your case for 10 days.
“So we are operating a very tough regime already within the limits of what is possible given that we’re an economy that depends on trade and access to the world.”
Mr Hancock earlier said ministers want to take even more “stringent” action on borders.
But both the PM and the Health Secretary have still been unable to say when the hotel quarantine system will come into force.
Mr Hancock and Home Secretary Priti Patel are understood to be pushing within Cabinet for an equally hard line covering the whole of Britain.