Scientists concerned about threat of imported Covid

Government scientific advisers have warned they are concerned about the “developing situation” of coronavirus being imported into the UK.

New papers published by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) on Friday said while imported cases of Covid-19 were a “small minority” of infections, they still posed a threat.

The report, by the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling, Operational sub-group (Spimo), was dated September 2.

POLITICS Coronavirus Rates
POLITICS Coronavirus Rates

It said: “Spimo are concerned about the developing situation around the importation of infection from people arriving in the UK.

“Whilst this is a small minority of infections in the UK it poses a threat.”

The report said that while testing at borders would not have an impact on importation rates, it would provide important surveillance data.

But it warned that imported infections were likely to remain a source of outbreaks in the UK.

It added: “Although testing at borders is unlikely to have significant impact on importation rates, it would provide important epidemiological surveillance data and potentially reduce onwards transmission if it results in through higher adherence to quarantine periods and activating onwards contact tracing.

“As heterogeneity increases globally, the importation of infection is likely to remain a source of outbreaks in the UK.”

Travellers entering the UK have to self-isolate for 14 days unless they have visited a country on the official list of nations considered low risk for Covid-19.

There have been calls from the travel industry and some Tory MPs to bring in airport testing and reduce quarantine times to allow more travel for holidays and business.

Health minister Lord Bethell of Romford told MPs his department was working closely with the Department for Transport, airlines and airports.

Appearing before the Commons Science and Technology Committee on Thursday, he was asked if the Government was looking at using repeat testing to shorten quarantine periods.

He added: “I would love to see the reopening of borders when we can.

“But the CMO (chief medical officer) is really clear, we’ve already had very tough outcomes from people coming into the country, bringing the disease with them and we have to rely on people complying with quarantine and the evidence suggests that that’s a very difficult thing to rely upon.”