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UK expected to introduce new border controls

Michael Gove

Michael Gove: making the borders safe

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove has indicated that tougher measures will be brought in at Britain’s borders to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Home Secretary Priti Patel is expected to impose new restrictions to halt the number of travellers flowing in and out of the country.

“We’ll be coming forward very shortly with new proposals on how exactly we will make sure that our borders are safe,” said Mr Gove.

“But the message is very, very clear for UK citizens that they should not be travelling.”

New restrictions will not apply to essential freight traffic and emergency support.

His comments came amid growing concern that freedom to travel and poor quarantine monitoring has contributed to the huge numbers of Covid cases in Britain.

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As of 4 January the UK has seen 75,431 deaths from Covid, whereas New Zealand, which had a strict travel ban from the outset, has seen just 25.

Labour has accused the Government of leaving the UK “completely exposed” to worrying new strains of COVID-19 coming from overseas. 

After the UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said this week that he is “incredibly worried” about the so-called ‘South African mutation’, analysis from Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds reveals that just three in every 100 UK arrivals are checked to ensure they are complying with quarantine measures. 

In a letter to Ms Patel, he raises concerns that the Government has left the nation’s “doors unlocked” to COVID mutations and calls on the Government to implement “an urgent review and improvement plan of quarantine arrangements needs to be implemented”.

Mr Thomas-Symonds says that the latest figures suggest “Britain’s defence against strains coming from overseas is effectively non-existent.” 

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It has been reported that new rules will be unveiled later this week requiring anyone travelling into the country to receive a negative Covid-19 test no more than 72 hours before their journey.

Mr Gove said that he did not wish to pre-empt the specific proposals that the government would put in place.

The new rules will come after a system was introduced last month that allows passengers to shorten their self-isolation by taking a coronavirus test.

The SNP’s shadow Home Secretary Joanna Cherry has raised concerns that the Home Secretary is “repeating the same mistakes we’ve seen the UK government make throughout this crisis” by failing to restrict international travel and failing to introduce a rigorous system of health checks and quarantining.

Ms Cherry said the Home Office must bring the UK into line with other countries, where tighter measures are being placed on travel in response to coronavirus.

“The UK government was far too slow to act in the spring, allowing hundreds of thousands of international visitors to enter the country in the middle of a global pandemic without effective measures in place. It seems as though they haven’t learnt a thing,” she said.

“No one wants to restrict international travel but it is a necessary part of mitigating against transmission.”



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