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Home Office letter reveals ongoing gaps in border quarantine putting Covid strategy at risk

20 April 2021

The Home Affairs Committee has today published correspondence from the Home Office revealing that a quarter of people arriving into the UK from countries requiring home isolation under Covid quarantine rules are not contactable by authorities. The correspondence further indicates that thousands of cases where quarantine rules have been broken are not investigated and no enforcement action is being taken.

Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, Rt Hon Yvette Cooper MP, has called on the Home Office to do more to ensure that new Covid variants are not spread by people arriving in the UK and failing to follow quarantine rules.

Chair's comment

In response to the letter, Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, Rt Hon Yvette Cooper MP said:

“This letter raises real concerns about significant gaps in the way that border Covid measures are being implemented. 

“The letter is confirmation that a quarter of international arrivals who aren’t going into mandatory quarantine are not contactable when they go home to self-isolate. It is also an astonishing admission that in thousands of cases where home isolation rules are being broken, no further enforcement action is taking place. We already knew from the police that they took no further enforcement action if someone was not at home when the checks took place or didn’t live at the address they had given even though that would be a clear breach of the regulations. Now the Home Office has confirmed that the Border Force also take no follow up enforcement action in these cases either. And there appears to be no reason to believe that this will change when private contractors are doing the initial checks instead. Given that only 1% of international arrivals are going into quarantine hotels, a properly enforced home quarantine system is vital to prevent new variants from spreading, and will be integral to any traffic light system the Government announces for the summer. 

“The Government’s quarantine arrangements still have too many gaps. Passengers are still arriving at Heathrow without needing a test at the airport before they can get onto public transport home after being on planes or trains and in busy terminals, with no consequences if they break the rules or can’t be found. Given there is likely to be a big increase in people returning from India over the next few days where Covid cases including from a new variant have been increasing, these gaps in testing, public transport and home checks are particularly concerning.

“At the same time, up to 35% of daily arrivals are hauliers and have been exempt from all testing and quarantine arrangements, despite the South Africa variant spreading rapidly in Europe. Even now, short-stay hauliers and those on Government business are exempt from basic testing requirements. This makes no sense when we have the testing capacity to give everyone in the country two tests a week.

“We are a year on from the start of this crisis and it is inexplicable that basic border measures are still not robust. We all want the vaccine rollout to succeed and the roadmap out of lockdown to stay on track, so we need a practical and robust approach to prevent new variants spreading. The Government must learn lessons and not make the same mistakes at the border all over again”. 

Further information

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