Border and quarantine ‘failings’ meant infection rate spread faster in UK, official report says

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A Commons Home Affairs Committee report has suggested the spread of Covid-19 has been faster than it should have been in the UK because the government failed to bring in quarantine rules sooner.

According to MPs, the border restrictions should have been introduced during the early days of the pandemic.

The report has highlighted “critical errors,” including the decision to lift all border restrictions in March, which they say “accelerated” the scale and pace of the virus.

This then led to “many more people contracting Covid-19” in the country.

The group of MPs backed the decision to include Spain in the current quarantine measures – although it hit out at the way travel corridor decisions were being made and called for improvements.

The inquiry considered the following government decisions on border measures:

  • From the early quarantine of 273 people largely from Wuhan, through voluntary self-isolation applying to travellers from specific countries (including China, Iran and Italy) in February and early March
  • The lifting of all border measures on March 13
  • The introduction of mandatory quarantine in June; the introduction of travel corridors and the most recent decision to reintroduce quarantine for Spain.

Drawing on evidence that “thousands of people with Covid-19 arrived in or returned to the UK in February and March”, the committee concluded: “The UK’s experience of Covid-19 has been far worse as a result of the Government’s decision not to require quarantine during March, which would have reduced the number of imported infections.”

Committee chairwoman Yvette Cooper said: “The Government’s failure to have proper quarantine measures in place in March as the infection was spreading fast was a grave error and meant Covid spread faster and reached more people.

“The UK was almost unique in having no border checks or quarantine arrangements at that time. That alone should have rung loud alarm bells for ministers and made them think again.

“Many times ministers told us they were following the science, but we cannot find any science at all behind their completely inexplicable decision to lift all the self-isolation guidance for travellers on 13 March, a full 10 days before lockdown, just at a time when other countries were introducing stronger border measures.

“We were told that thousands more people with Covid-19 came back to the UK after that guidance was lifted. So in the middle of March, at a time when the number of people with Covid coming back into the UK was at its peak, they were going back to work or onto public transport or seeing family without any quarantine in place.”



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