Delegates attending the Cop26 climate talks and travelling to Glasgow from a country on the UK’s “red list”, will need to isolate for at least five days in a hotel upon arrival, a Cop26 official has told media.
After months of speculation and rising concerns from negotiators and civil society about the logistics for the November summit, the UK set out its plan to Covid-proof the conference to the UN Climate Change bureau, comprised of 11 diplomats, on Monday evening.
Many prospective delegates, particularly from remote or poor countries, have expressed concerns about logistical and financial barriers to attend the summit amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The official told reporters between 20,000 and 25,000 people were expected to attend the conference and registration is still open.
The UK is hoping to balance measures to ensure a fair representation from countries around the world, while protecting public health.
Rules for travelling to the UK from red list countries will be relaxed for Cop26 participants. Mandatory quarantine in a designated hotel will be reduced from 10 to five days for participants who are fully vaccinated. Those who are not vaccinated will still need to quarantine for the full 10 days.
A Cop26 spokesperson told Climate Home separate rules will be thrashed out for heads of state and ministers “in due course”.
Delegates will be asked to isolate at the point of arrival, which for the vast majority of participants is expected to be London.
The cost of staying in a quarantine facility recently increased to £2,285 ($3,164) per person – up from £1,750 ($2,423) previously. The UK government is assessing what the total cost of quarantine stays might be and whether it can foot the bill.
At time of writing, 57 countries are on the UK’s red list ranging from major emerging economies such as Brazil and South Africa to small island states like the Maldives and Seychelles. Aside from Turkey and some French overseas territories, all are classed as developing countries under the UN climate process.
Delegates coming from countries rated by the UK as green or amber for coronavirus will not need to quarantine upon arrival, regardless of whether they are vaccinated. The lists are under constant review.
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The announcement has been met with concern and anger by some developing country officials, who could be affected by the decision.
Mohamed Nasr, lead climate negotiator for Egypt, told Climate Home News: “While we respect each countries’ rules and regulations especially with regard to Covid, this situation will create a barrier to equal participation.”
He added the cost of quarantine risked increasing the bill for developing countries to attend the conference, citing already expensive accommodation in Glasgow.
“This is totally unfair and inequitable given the global nature of the event,” said Malik Amin Aslam, who serves as Pakistan’s climate minister, adding: “Covid politics and vaccine apartheid” should stay out of such an important international summit.
Under the current red list, a quarter of delegates from small island states would be forced to quarantine, said Aubrey Webson, chair of the Alliance of Small Island States.
“Getting to Glasgow is already going to be an almost insurmountable endeavour for many developing countries… and now, they may charge us to come to a conference to negotiate our very future. This burden could well be a breaking point.”
The UK scrambling to try to make #COP26 Covid secure after blocking a #PeoplesVaccine not only demonstrates the lack of joined up thinking by the UK Govt. The rich can travel freely & the poor if they get a visa have to quarantine & pay hefty hotel bills https://t.co/qaGqhAHT8h
— asad rehman (@chilledasad100) August 9, 2021
The UK is strongly recommending all Cop26 participants get vaccinated. Delegates will be asked to sign a charter confirming their vaccination status and to abide by the Covid-19 directives agreed for the conference.
All Covid-19 vaccines will be recognised, including those that haven’t been approved for use in the UK. Participants that would otherwise not be able to get vaccinated in time for the summit were able to apply for jabs at the same time as registering for the conference until 23 July.
The Cop26 team is working with the UK’s foreign office and the UN to get the vaccines out to participants. The official said the UK was waiting for confirmation from the UN about the number of people who have applied for jabs through the scheme.
Comment: delivering an inclusive Cop26 in the age of Covid-19 requires more than vaccines
Strict Covid-19 testing protocols will be in place throughout the summit, which runs 1-12 November. Delegates, even those that are fully vaccinated, will be asked to test themselves regularly with testing facilities and laboratory capacity being made available for the duration of the talks.
Isolation protocols for delegates that test positive during the conference have not yet been agreed.
The UK is in talks with the governments of Australia and New Zealand to relax transit quarantine measures that could affect negotiators and observers from Pacific small island states who need to catch connecting flights in those countries.
The rules have been approved by ministers from both the Scottish and UK governments.
The official said ensuring the health of participants and the local community in Glasgow was of the utmost importance for the UK government.
This article was updated after publication with reaction from negotiators.