UK Border: Covid Protections

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:36 pm on 26th January 2021.

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Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel The Secretary of State for the Home Department 12:36 pm, 26th January 2021

From January 2020, the Government have had a comprehensive strategy for public health measures at the border. The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office swiftly discouraged all but essential travel to China and announced that anybody entering the UK from Wuhan should self-isolate for 14 days.

In February, advice from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies recommended that those from Thailand, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and Macau, and those who were symptomatic, should also self-isolate, and regulations were introduced to allow officers to detain and direct individuals. In March, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office advised against all non-essential travel, initially for 30 days. On 23 March, the Prime Minister advised that everyone should stay at home and travel only for essential purposes.

A raft of measures followed in May, including 14 days’ self-isolation, passenger locator forms and fines for those who failed to comply with those mandatory conditions. In July, the Government announced the introduction of the international travel corridors. The countries on those travel corridor lists were kept under constant review and removed as the risk of importing covid-19 increased.

However, as the safeguarding of the vaccine roll-out has become the Government’s priority, we have introduced stricter controls. In December, following the identification of the new variant of the virus, we introduced a travel ban on arrivals from South Africa, later extending to a ban on South America and Portugal. We suspended travel corridors and required all passengers to show proof of a negative coronavirus test before they embark on their journey to the UK. Anyone arriving must also self-isolate for 10 days.

Those new measures are being robustly enforced to keep the public safe. Passengers must continue to fill in a passenger locator form, and those who fail to comply face a £500 fine. Carriers are under a legal obligation to check that each passenger has proof of a negative test, and are liable for a fine of £2,000 for not complying. To date, Border Force has checked an estimated 3.7 million passenger locator forms, issued more than 2,300 fixed penalty notices and referred more than 22,000 cases to the police.

The UK has a world-leading vaccination programme that should all be proud of. It is therefore right that the Government continue to do everything we can to protect the roll-out of the vaccine from new strains of the virus. We keep all measures under review and will not hesitate to take further action to protect the public.