Travel | February 11, 2021 5:30 am

In the UK, Lying About COVID While Traveling Could Mean 10 Years in Jail

The sentence for failure to quarantine would exceed the maximum for child sex crimes

In the UK, Lying About COVID While Traveling Could Mean 10 Years in Jail
Hollie Adams

In light of the discovery of a new, highly contagious COVID variant, Britain has announced its latest round of sanctions, the most notable being a possible 10-year prison sentence for anyone convicted of lying about their travel plans to try to circumvent national policies and protocols.

Matt Hancock, British Secretary of Health and Social Care, said on Tuesday that any traveler who attempted to cloak their travel plans back to the U.K. from a “red list country” in an attempt to surpass the 10-day quarantine mandate could face fines up to $13,800 and up to a decade in prison if prosecuted.

According to The Telegraph, it’s a move that “puts failure to declare travel on the Government’s quarantine locator form on a par with making threats to kill, indecent assault and carrying a firearm, which have 10-year maximum sentences.”

The announcement is the latest in a series of increasingly severe punishments that British authorities have implemented to crack down on quarantine offenders. In August, three people found in violation of their quarantine mandates were jailed for four to six weeks on the Isle of Man after having returned from the UK (one after taking his jet ski across the Irish Sea to visit his girlfriend). Then, in October, a British student was fined almost $9 thousand after flying from Manchester to the island of Jersey for forgoing quarantine in lieu of a social media-documented restaurant outing. And just last December, an American college student made headlines after she was sentenced to four months in the Cayman Islands (a British Overseas Territory) after violating the islands’ quarantine rules to attend her boyfriend’s jet ski competition.

But the latest sanctions are the strictest threat of punishment to date, with the sentence for what is effectively irresponsible travel now longer than the maximum sentence for child sex crimes.

“I make no apologies for the strength of these measures because we’re dealing with one of the strongest threats to our public health that we’ve faced as a nation,” Hancock said in a statement to lawmakers.

As it stands now, British and Irish citizens are still able to travel, but they must purchase a “quarantine package” prior to or upon arrival back home, which involves a 10-day stay in a government-determined hotel for the price of $2,400 per person — a steep fee before considering the $13,800 alternative.

Hancock has said that he hopes to loosen the standing restrictions and enter into a “safe system of international travel” as soon as possible, expressing plans to reevaluate in the fall based on the state of the vaccine rollout. So maybe cancel any plans you had to attend to attend Wimbledon this summer.