Sir Keir Starmer calls for tougher hotel quarantine policy

Neil Lancefield, PA Transport Correspondent

An estimated 10,000 travellers arriving in the UK from “higher-risk countries” every day will avoid hotel quarantine, according to the Labour Party.

The analysis is based on the number of people travelling from countries where the South African or Brazilian coronavirus variants are circulating but which are not on the Government’s red list.

This includes locations such as France, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands.

Those passengers will not be required to quarantine in hotels under the new system which comes into force on Monday.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said on Wednesday the number of people currently travelling to the UK from red list countries “probably comes to less than 1,000 a day”.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer called for the requirements in England to match those planned for Scotland, which will require all international arrivals to self-isolate in hotels.

He also demand that the Government publishes daily data showing how many passengers are entering the UK from different countries.

A very quiet Eurostar arrivals area (Victoria Jones/PA)
A very quiet Eurostar arrivals area (Victoria Jones/PA)

He said: “The Government’s failure to secure our borders risks jeopardising the fight against Covid-19.

“All the effort being put into the vaccine rollout across Britain could be undermined by a vaccine-resistant strain entering the country.

“The Government is leaving gaping holes in our defences against Covid variants, with the vast majority of arrivals from Monday set to avoid hotel quarantine.

“The Prime Minister must listen to Labour and ensure all international arrivals are quarantined in hotels and the aviation sector is supported while that happens.

“He should also come clean on the numbers of people arriving from different countries by publishing daily arrivals data.”

Cambridge professor Ravi Gupta, a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag) suggested that a blanket policy in relation to travel restrictions would be better.

He told Times Radio: “We learned from the early days of this pandemic that having red listed countries wasn’t helpful because the spread was far more extensive than we realised.

“And so the better option probably would be to remove the red list countries and just have the same regulations for all incoming visitors, rather like other countries have done.”

He added: “I think we have learned that when we tried to do that sort of balancing act that things tend to go the wrong way.”

Meanwhile, shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon has written to Mr Shapps asking him to clarify the “mixed messages” coming from Government on summer holidays.

He wrote: “Today, you said that people should not book a holiday at this time. But just a few days ago the Prime Minister said he was ‘optimistic’ about people being able to go away, and the Health Secretary – like many other families – appears to have already booked his trip.

“Meanwhile, the country’s borders remain open, leaving Britain exposed to Covid variants coming from overseas.

“With holiday insurance now largely no longer fully covering trips which could be cancelled due to Covid and family budgets being squeezed more tightly than ever, the British public need and deserve clarity.”

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