Labour: Border policy must no longer be “Achilles heel” in Covid response

Elliot Chappell
© alice-photo/Shutterstock.com

Nick Thomas-Symonds has told the Home Secretary that inadequate Covid measures at the border must not “continue to be the Achilles heel” in the country’s pandemic response as he criticised new requirements as “too little, too late”.

Responding to a statement from Priti Patel this afternoon, the Shadow Home Secretary told MPs that the proposals outlined by the government to contain the spread of the virus from new arrivals “do not go anywhere near far enough”.

Patel announced in her statement to parliament today that a new “managed isolation process” would be set up. Arrivals from certain countries who cannot be refused entry, including people coming home, will have to isolate for ten days.

Commenting on the new measures, Thomas-Symonds argued: “We must learn from past mistakes and crucially act now. And one of the key areas where the government has clearly fallen short is on protecting our border.

“I’m deeply concerned that the measures outlined today are yet another example of this – too little, too late. Yet again, the government is lurching from one crisis to another, devoid of strategy.

“Limiting hotel quarantining to only a limited number of countries, from which travel from non-UK residents was already banned, means that the Home Secretary’s proposals do not go anywhere near far enough.”

Under proposals called for by the opposition party, the new hotel quarantine system would apply to travellers arriving from all countries to the UK, rather than only those coming from a country on a government list.

It has been estimated that around 15,000 travellers are currently arriving in the UK every day, but Patel told the Commons today that full details of the hotel quarantine plan will not be announced by her department until next week.

The Shadow Home Secretary added: “Getting this policy right is absolutely crucial. The government cannot allow our border policy to continue to be the Achilles heel of the heroic efforts of the British people during this pandemic.”

The statement from Patel followed one from Boris Johnson earlier this afternoon, in which the Prime Minister told the Commons that he hopes children will be able to return to classrooms across England from the week beginning 8th March.

It also followed Prime Minister’s Questions, during which Keir Starmer demanded school staff be added to the first phase of the vaccination roll-out and urged Johnson to use the “window” of the February half-term to vaccinate all school workers.

“Our schools are closed,” the Labour leader told the Prime Minister this afternoon. “And our borders are open.” He reiterated Labour’s call for immediate hotel quarantining to be introduced for anyone coming to the UK, from any country.

Labour highlighted earlier this month that, according to government figures, just three in every 100 people travelling to the UK from another country are being checked to make sure that they are complying with quarantine measures.

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