Nick Thomas-Symonds has accused government ministers of being “irresponsible” for not introducing a “comprehensive policy of hotel quarantining” for people travelling to the UK to stop the spread of new Covid variants.
In an interview with Sky News this morning, the Shadow Home Secretary criticised the government for being “slow” on adapting its border policy in the health crisis and for taking “inadequate” measures throughout the pandemic.
He said: “Even now, when the government has announced a limited measure of hotel quarantining of 30 red-list countries, they can’t even give you a date as to whether they’re going to introduce it.
“There should be a comprehensive policy of hotel quarantining for arrivals. Of course there would be exceptions and I’ve referred to that but the reason for that is so important.
“The threat now to all the progress that has been made because of the sacrifice of the British people and to the vaccine roll-out would be a mutant strain of the virus that emerges from abroad that affected the efficacy of the vaccine.”
His party forced a parliamentary vote in the Commons last night, calling on the government to introduce a comprehensive system. It passed as Conservative MPs abstained but, as an opposition day motion, the vote is not binding.
Thomas-Symonds said: “Nothing is 100% effective but you have to do absolutely everything you can and what we do know is that the current measures are not working. The government’s quarantine measures are wholly inadequate.
“Since they introduced quarantining, which by the way was extremely late… they then published statistics to show that only three in every one hundred people being checked at the border were being positively contacted to check they were quarantining.
“Last night, the government couldn’t muster one of its MPs to vote against Labour’s suggestion of a comprehensive quarantine policy.
“And as we see this South African variant here in the UK, it is deeply irresponsible of ministers not to be doing all they possibly can to make sure all the progress we’ve made isn’t put at risk.”
"There should be a comprehensive policy of hotel quarantine for arrivals."
— Sky News (@SkyNews) February 2, 2021
Priti Patel announced last week 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.
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.
The comments from the Shadow Home Secretary this morning follow reports that the Prime Minister was warned by SAGE two weeks ago that introducing mandatory quarantining or closing the borders would be necessary to stop new variants.
Public Health England has identified 105 cases of the South African variant, with 11 cases having no link to international travel. 80,000 people across certain postcodes face door-to-door testing this week to stop further transmission.