Lack of a travel ban in the UK has presented a stark contrast to the measures adopted in the EU and the US, where borders have been shut to travelers amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. While arriving passengers from affected countries have been requested to self-isolate for 14 days, there are no means of enforcing this.
UK Home Office figures show that only 273 people who arrived in the country in the three months before a COVID-19 lockdown was introduced were formally quarantined, reported The Guardian.
Stephen Doughty, Labour MP and member of the Home Affairs Select Committee, received the information from the government along with additional data that confirmed 18.1 million people had entered the UK in that period of time via air, land and sea from all destinations.
AFP 2020 / ANDREW MILLIGANStaff direct traffic as key workers arrive for a test for the novel coronavirus Covid-19 at a drive-in testing centre at Glasgow Airport on April 29, 2020, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
It is also suggested that according to Home Office estimates tens of thousands of potentially infected individuals from coronavirus-affected countries could have crossed the UK borders during that time.
Government-supported isolation facilities had accommodated passengers from three flights from China’s city of Wuhan, the source of the respiratory disease outbreak in December 2019, and a flight from Tokyo, Japan, delivering passengers from the ill-fated coronavirus-stricken Diamond Princess cruise ship, between 1 January and 22 March.
The politician added that many of the cited arrivals subsequently travelled across the UK possibly with little adherence to social distancing protocols.
Another disturbing incident cited was the Champions League football match in Liverpool, attended by some 52,000 people, including 3,000 fans from Madrid, at a time when Spain was already in partial lockdown.
REUTERS / Carl RecinePolice officer in UK city of Birmingham tells man he must leave the street amid COIVD-19 lockdown
While daily arrivals in the UK have dropped to under 10,000 compared to around 300,000 in the months before the pandemic, crisis struck Europe the government continues to allow people to cross the border without screening or enforced quarantine.
According to data cited by the outlet, on 31 January, 83 passengers entered Britain on an evacuation flight from Wuhan and were dropped off at an isolation facility in Merseyside.
AP Photo / Ng Han GuanElderly residents wearing masks against the coronavirus wait outside a bank in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei province Thursday, April 16, 2020
11 passengers were taken to the same site after arriving on 2 February via a French-organised evacuation flight from Wuhan.
A final evacuation flight brought 147 people from Wuhan on 9 February, with a facility in Milton Keynes used to quarantine them, while on 22 February, 32 passengers were evacuated from Tokyo and taken to the Merseyside site.
No Travel Ban
UK Home Secretary Priti Patel has defended the government’s continued refusal to enforce screening or quarantine on UK borders, claiming the decisions were made on recommendations from the scientific advisory group for emergencies (SAGE).
Patel told the Home Affairs Select Committee that air passenger numbers were down 99 per cent year on year, while maritime passengers were down 88.7 per cent and international rail travellers were down 94 per cent.
The politician added that while new probes need to be carried out into how and why certain decisions were taken, it was “vital past mistakes are learned from to help shape policy as we move to the next stages of managing this crisis”.
There has been no official comment on the report from the UK Home Office.
In late March Downing Street announced it would not seek to shut Britain’s borders amid the pandemic, despite the measure being taken by other nations.
Although Home Secretary Priti Patel was cited by The Daily Telegraph as insisting that flights from virus hotspots should not be allowed while the UK is on lockdown, Boris Johnson’s spokesman said there were “no plans to do that”.