Coronavirus: People arriving in the UK from abroad could be quarantined for 14 days

·3-min read
Government warnings about Coronavirus in the Baggage Hall of London's Heathrow Airport's Terminal 2 the day after the Prime Minister said that Covid-19 "is the worst public health crisis for a generation", and the government's top scientist warned that up to 10,000 people in the UK are already infected.
The government is considering checks on people arriving in the country, the Foreign Secretary has confirmed. (Picture: PA)

The government is considering checks on people arriving at sea ports and airports in the UK, Dominic Raab has confirmed.

The Foreign Secretary said the question of whether people should be quarantined when they arrive in the country is being asked regularly and guidance could change.

His comments come after The Sunday Telegraph and The Mail on Sunday said officials were drawing up plans for passengers to be quarantined for 14 days after entering the country.

The approach, which is similar to that operated in Singapore, has previously been rejected by ministers who argued it would have little impact given the low numbers coming into the UK and the rate of community transmission in the country.

But Raab said that position could change as scientific advice evolved.

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He told BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show: “It might do. I can’t say with any certainty yet. Whether it is a quarantine period, or testing or other measures that might be taken, it is possible.”

“I ask this question every week – ‘Can we check there aren’t measures at the border at the current level of the coronavirus challenge that we face that would make a difference?’ We will keep asking that question.”

But later on Sunday, Environment Secretary George Eustice called the reports “speculation” and said no decisions had been taken yet.

He said: “As we move to a new phase at some point in the future – we are not there yet – international travel could become a more significant part of the risk to manage.

“At the moment, all of the evidence suggests it is only a tiny proportion of the cause of the coronavirus outbreak – if we got to that point, a number of measures would be considered but no decisions have been taken in this phase yet.”

He added: “We’ve made a conscious decision as a country not to close our borders because we need to keep trade flowing and should there be medical advice in the future, as we move to new stages, that this is an area that should be looked at and considered, that is the time to do that.”

Earlier this month, Health Secretary Matt Hancock told MPs that people arriving in the UK from abroad were not being asked to self-isolate because coronavirus is already so prevalent.

Hancock told the Health & Social Care Committee that the decision was similar to many other countries but was being kept under review.

Asked by Yvette Cooper why there was no guidance asking people travelling into the country to self-isolate as a precaution, he said: “I’m advised by the epidemiologists, it is not an epidemiologically significant route of transmission in the UK because the current incidence is high.

“Of course, if we succeed in getting the incidence of transmission lower and much lower, which I hope we will, then you have to ask the question of how to protect the UK from people who have been in a place where that incidence of transmission is much higher.”

Hancock said the decision was “similar to many other countries who are following the science” and would be kept under review, adding: “Many things change fast in this epidemic.”

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