Asylum seekers with symptoms of diphtheria will be put into isolation after a rise in the number of infections among those coming to the UK.
The immigration minister told MPs that migrants showing signs of the highly-contagious disease will be separated for a “short period” at the Manston processing centre in Kent or held in a “designated isolation centre” while they are treated.
Any asylum seekers who may have the infection but are already in hotels will be told to isolate in their rooms while they are treated, Robert Jenrick said.
It comes after Home Secretary Suella Braverman faced criticism about overcrowding and outbreaks of disease at Manston, and the Home Office said a man held there may have died from a diphtheria infection.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said there had been an “increase” in cases of diphtheria reported among asylum seekers arriving in the UK, with 50 identified as of November 25 including children. The figure stood at 39 on November 10.
Meanwhile, Channel crossings resumed, with more migrants pictured arriving on the Kent coast.
Mr Jenrick told the Commons on Monday: “From today, no-one presenting with symptoms will progress into the asylum accommodation system.
“They will either remain at Manston, isolating for a short period, or they will travel to a designated isolation centre in secure transport where they will be treated until deemed medically fit.”
Mr Jenrick later confirmed the isolation centres would be “secure isolation hotels”, such as those used during the coronavirus pandemic, and that migrants would then be moved to other accommodation once they had made a full recovery.
The level of infectious diseases in migrant camps in northern France is also being assessed, he added.
Ministers and health officials have insisted the risk of the public getting diphtheria is very low and infections are rare. The illness – which affects the nose, throat and sometimes skin – can be fatal if not treated quickly but antibiotics and other medicines are available.
But some public health experts raised concerns about the spread of the disease as migrants were moved to hotels.
The latest UKHSA report said 38 of the cases have been reported in the South East, as well as fewer than five in each of the following areas: London; West Midlands; South West; North East and the North West. No breakdown by county has been provided.
Cases were predominantly among young men aged between 14 and 25, but the age range varied from two to 41 years old, according to the UKHSA.
The majority had “skin lesions or wounds” sustained during their journey and most cases had the “onset of symptoms prior to arrival into the UK, suggesting infection has occurred along the extended travel route through Europe or at country of origin,” the agency said.
Earlier, Health Secretary Steve Barclay said 500 people were vaccinated before they were moved out of Manston and into hotels around the country.
All migrants are being offered a vaccine on arrivals in the UK and Mr Jenrick said the acceptance rate is “increasing”, with 100% of the migrants who arrived in the UK over the weekend taking up the offer.
According to the Ministry of Defence, 36 people arrived in one boat on Saturday.
Conservative former Cabinet minister David Davis accused the Home Office of having a “laissez-faire approach to asylum-seeker dispersal” while Labour’s shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper called on the department to “get a grip” of the situation.
She claimed the Government had ignored health advice as she criticised the absence of Ms Braverman from the chamber.
But Mr Jenrick said: “She asked whether or not ministers have followed the advice of the UKHSA throughout and, to the best of my knowledge, they have.”
Appearing on ITV’s Peston programme, security minister Tom Tugendhat denied that the Home Office had behaved incompetently.
He said: “We don’t have a quick test for diphtheria, there isn’t like a Covid test for diphtheria, so what’s been happening is people have been coming over and they’ve been scanned for symptoms rather than tested for the disease, so that’s why it has sometimes taken a little while to present.”
A man held at Manston died in hospital on November 19 after crossing the Channel seven days earlier.
Although initial tests came back negative, a follow-up PCR test indicated “diphtheria may be the cause of the illness”, Government officials said. A post-mortem examination is being carried out to determine the cause of death.