Starmer: Government’s quarantine policy ‘isn’t going to work’

David Hughes, PA Political Editor

The Government’s new quarantine plan is destined to fail, Labour claimed ahead of it coming into force on Monday.

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

“I don’t think anybody would argue that’s a system that’s going to work,” Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said.

The Labour 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 from Monday under the new system.

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

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

The Labour leader, who visited Heathrow Airport to speak to staff there, told reporters: “Our concern isn’t their preparations, because they’re getting on with that.

“Our concern is that we now know that there are variants in countries that aren’t on the red list.

“So this partial approach by the Government isn’t going to work.

“We are at this crucial stage now where it’s a race between the vaccine and variants, and the only way through this is to buy time by having a comprehensive system of quarantine in hotels, wherever you come from.”

Sir Keir also urged the Government not to give mixed messages about the prospect of summer holidays.

The Labour leader is planning a holiday in Devon in August, “subject to the restrictions”.

He acknowledged it is “really difficult” for ministers to know what will happen over the coming months.

“I’m not going to stand here and criticise the Government for being unable to say with precision what’s going to happen in August, I don’t think that’s fair.

“What I do think they should avoid is mixed messages – so don’t say, one day, through the Prime Minister, ‘It’ll all be fine’ and through the Transport Secretary say ‘Don’t book a holiday’.”

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