Matt Hancock has suggested further clampdown could be coming to the British border as he warned we “can’t risk the progress we have made”.
The Health Secretary paved the way for a likely decision to put at least some returning travellers into hotels, saying the spread of new Covid-19 variants had “changed the discussion”.
“The new variant I really worry about is the one that’s out there but hasn’t been spotted,” Mr Hancock said – as experts examine whether the strains from South Africa and Brazil are vaccine-resistant.
Mr Hancock said he was sceptical about the use of vaccine passports to allow people to travel again.
While he said there might be a limited use for them in restarting international travel he said “I’m not attracted to the idea of vaccine passports here, we are not a papers-carrying country”
Labour’s Lisa Nandy slammed Tory inaction to stop people coming into the UK and said she had been “pushing the Government to take tougher measures at the border since last spring”.
She told the BBC’s Andrew Marr: “There is no question that we need to take border security far more seriously. We’ve been pushing the Government to take tougher measures at the border since last spring.
“On Monday we’ve got this delayed announcement yet again delayed. We would fully expect the Government to bring in tougher quarantine measures, we would expect them to roll out a proper testing strategy and we would expect them as well to start checking up on the people who are quarantining.
“Only three out of every hundred people who are asked to quarantine when they arrive into the UK actually face any checks at all, that’s just simply not sufficient.”
It came as it was reported that Brits returning to the UK from abroad could be forced to quarantine in hotels – and pay for it themselves – under plans being considered by Downing Street.
Ministers are reportedly set to discuss on Monday further tightening travel restrictions on sports stars and making people in isolation submit daily proof they are still inside.
The government is considering making it mandatory for travellers to spend that 10-day quarantine period in a hotel for which they would have to pay, as a way to enforce the quarantine rules.
Medical experts are pushing for the tightest possible border controls — but the Government is expected to stop short of a complete closure.
But the hotel quarantine system for international arrivals is understood to have widespread support within the Cabinet – but there is some debate over if it will apply to all Brits or just those who arrive from virus hotspots.
A source told The Sun: “It is likely all arrivals from certain areas would be expected to stay at a hotel.
“It would be too much of a risk to expect they would all self-isolate at home for that period.”
The move comes amid criticism that Britain’s existing quarantine policy is not being adequately enforced, and comes amid growing worries about the emergence of more infectious new Covid-19 variants.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson told a news conference on Friday that the UK may need to implement further measures to protect its borders from new variants of Covid-19.
Under current travel curbs, almost all people arriving in the UK must test negative for Covid to be allowed entry.
The test must be taken in the 72 hours before travelling and anyone arriving without one faces a fine of up to £500.
All passengers are also required to quarantine for up to 10 days, although the isolation period can be cut short with a second negative test after five days in England.
The only people not subject to the conditions are children under 11, hauliers, air, international rail and maritime crew, and passengers from the Common Travel Area – comprised of the Republic of Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Mann.