Thursday 4 February 2021 / 6:42 PM Nick Thomas-Symonds

Labour demands answers about hotel quarantine delay

Labour demands answers about hotel quarantine delay

Labour is demanding answers about the delay in using hotels to quarantine people arriving in the UK.

In the letter to Priti Patel, Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds highlights how a commitment that the Department of Health and Social Care would set out further details on measures to quarantine people from “red list” countries is yet to materialise.

It adds that currently, “the only protection is an ineffective self-quarantine system, which has already allowed the South African strain of the virus to enter the country.”

The letter calls on the Home Secretary to answer key questions including:

– When will a commencement date for the limited hotel quarantine measures announced be made public?

– Have agreements been made with any hotels?

– What discussions have been held with police and other agencies to establish how measures will be enforced?

– How many individuals are entering the country daily and from which counties are they arriving?

The Shadow Home Secretary adds how “continued lack of decisive action and competence is putting lives at risk and could potentially undermine the vital progress being made by vaccine.”

 

Full text of letter:

Dear Priti,

I am writing to request an urgent update on unacceptable delays to the introduction of hotel quarantine measures.

As you will be aware, it is now 43 days since the South African variant was discovered and 21 days since the Government first discussed hotel quarantine. Your statement in the House of Commons on 27 January promised to introduce limited hotel quarantine measures for a “red list” countries. In that statement you pledged that the “Department of Health and Social Care will set out further details on this approach next week”.  Yet more than a week has now passed and there has been no update, no details announced and still no start date.

The UK is in a race against time to secure our borders against emerging strains of the virus. Yet not only are there no hotel quarantine arrangements in place, the plans for how they will work have not even been announced.

The current position is that 21,000 people are entering the country daily. The only protection is an ineffective self-quarantine system, which has already allowed the South African strain of the virus to enter the country.

Given all of this, it is deeply worrying to hear reports from major hotel chains that concrete discussions are still not underway. While no confirmation has been given on how any measures will be enforced, as there appears to be no extra capacity for police forces to take on additional work.

It has also been reported that initial advice was only sought from the New Zealand authorities in recent days on hotel quarantine systems. This is despite the fact it has long been clear that this kind of contingency planning would need to be in place.

As a result, I would be grateful if you could answer the following questions:

– When will a commencement date for the limited hotel quarantine measures announced be made public?

– Have agreements been made with any hotels?

– What discussions have been held with police and other agencies to establish how measures will be enforced?

– What scientific basis was the ‘red list’ of countries decided on and how will any changes to the list be decided?

– When will details be announced on details for travellers in quarantine, such as the cost of quarantine, number of tests required, and any exemptions to the rules?

– Can you confirm currently how many individuals are entering the country daily? From which counties are they arriving and by which transport methods?

Labour has set out that we do not feel the hotel quarantine measures as announced go far enough to protect against mutant strains of the virus. I still await your response to my letter requesting the SAGE minutes are published, along with any further relevant details, that formed the basis of the decision on which countries were placed on the ‘red list’

It is now clear that this government lacks the competence and grip to implement even the limited measures that were promised.

It has been a year since the virus reached the UK and border protections have been far too slow throughout.  The inability to put in place a clear strategy on Covid border security has seen the UK Government lurch from one crisis to another.

This continued lack of decisive action and competence is putting lives at risk and could potentially undermine the vital progress being made by vaccine. The British people – who have made such extraordinary sacrifices thorough this pandemic – deserve better.

Yours sincerely,

Nick Thomas Symonds MP

Shadow Secretary of State for the Home Department