TEN year jail sentences for travellers who try to conceal journeys to high-risk countries have been branded “extraordinarily high” in a backlash against the Government’s plan to tackle coronavirus variants.

Matt Hancock announced a requirement for UK residents returning to England from 33 “red list” countries to pay £1,750 to quarantine for 10 days in Government-designated hotels.

The Health Secretary said those caught lying about their movements could be fined £10,000 or be jailed for 10 years.

It comes amid continuing concerns over home-grown coronavirus strains as scientists advising the Government added one detected in Bristol to its “variant of concern” list.

Former Supreme Court justice Lord Sumption hit out at the punishment and said it should not compare to those for violent or sexual crimes.

“Does Mr Hancock really think that non-disclosure of a visit to Portugal is worse than the large number of violent firearms offences or sexual offences involving minors, for which the maximum is seven years?” the peer said.

Former attorney general Dominic Grieve added: “The maximum sentence of 10 years for what is effectively a regulatory breach sounds, in the circumstances, unless it can be justified, extraordinarily high.”

Yesterday, Mr Hancock told MPs: “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.”

He also confirmed a new “enhanced testing” regime for all international travellers, with two tests required during the quarantine process from Monday.

Those who fail to take a test face a £1,000 fine, followed by a £2,000 penalty and an extension to their quarantine period, to 14 days, if they miss the second test.

Mr Hancock indicated the quarantine measures might be in place until the autumn if vaccine booster jabs are needed in response to coronavirus variants.

He told the Commons that 16 hotels have been contracted to provide 4,600 rooms for the quarantine programme, which begins on Monday.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth claimed the public wants the Government to “go further” on border measures.

“Our first line of defence is surely to do everything we can to stop (new variants) arising in the first place,” the Labour MP said.

“That means securing our borders to isolate new variants as they come in. He’s announced a detailed package today but he hasn’t announced comprehensive quarantine controls at the borders.”

Travel trade organisation Abta said requiring passengers to pay for multiple tests once leisure travel is restarted would have “serious cost implications” and “hurt demand”.

A spokeswoman urged ministers to “develop a roadmap to reopen travel”.

Single adults will be charged £1,750 for a 10-day stay in a quarantine hotel, which covers the hotel, transfer and testing.