Priti Patel says government should have closed borders last March to stop coronavirus

Jon Stone
·2-min read
Home secretary Priti Patel (PA)
Home secretary Priti Patel (PA)

Britain's borders should have been closed in March 2020 to stop coronavirus, the Home Secretary has said.

Priti Patel said she had advocated the measure at the time but suggested she had been overruled by others in government.

She made the revelation in comments to an online meeting of Conservative party supporters on Tuesday evening.

"On 'should have have closed our borders earlier', the answer is yes," she said, according to a recording of the event obtained by the Guido Fawkes website.

"I was an advocate of closing them last March."

Speaking on Wednesday morning the Home Secretary rejected claims of government mismanagement and said people should not compare the UK's high death rate to other countries.

Watch: UK records highest number of daily Covid-19 deaths since outbreak began

"Every single death is deeply tragic," Ms Patel told broadcaster LBC when asked why the death toll was so large.

"There's no one factor as to why we have such a horrendous and tragic death rate."

Pressed on international comparisons, she said figures were "not comparable".

Speaking separately on the BBC she said: "I don't think this is the time to talk about mismanagement".

Last week the government finally required anyone coming to the UK to produce a negative coronavirus test and said all arrivals had to quarantine for 10 days.

Previously, the government did not require a test and operated "travel corridors" with some countries judged to be low-risk where no quarantine was required.

The Foreign Office has also warned people against all but essential international travel at various points in the pandemic, notably during lockdowns.

Boris Johnson said last week that the new action on borders was required because the vaccine meant that "the risk of new strains coming from overseas" was clear.

Nigel Farage seized on the Home Secretary’s latest comments, stating: "What a pity Boris Johnson didn’t listen to Priti Patel."

Nick Thomas-Symonds, Labour's shadow home secretary, said, Ms Patel had made a “shocking admission” of “the government’s failure to secure the UK’s borders against Covid”.

“Priti Patel's admission, coupled with the complete lack of strategy for testing of travellers, means that the Government has left our doors open to the virus and worrying mutations," he said.

“Ministers now need to - urgently - review and overhaul border policy, whilst taking responsibility for the huge damage their incompetence has done to our national safety and security.”

Watch: What you can and can't do during England's third national lockdown

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