Quarantining people arriving from abroad is being “actively” looked at, a senior member of the UK Government has admitted, as criticism mounts over the country dragging its feet compared to other parts of the world.

Currently, there are no health checks on passengers arriving into the UK.
Many other countries have banned all but their own citizens and residents from incoming flights, while other nations have regional restrictions.

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SNP MP Joanna Cherry has written to Home Secretary Priti Patel calling for health checks or Covid-19 tests at airports, while Health Secretary Jeane Freeman yesterday said decisions should be made “very soon” over ensuring people arriving cannot transmit the virus to the public.

There are reports the UK Government is set to force all arrivals to undergo two weeks of quarantine as they arrive in the country.

UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the idea of quarantining overseas arrivals was being examinedlooked at by Westminster in a bid to further reduce the R-naught value – the infection rate between people.

Speaking on The Andrew Marr Show, Mr Shapps said: “I think it is important that as we are seeing the numbers decrease and the R rate we hope decrease... that we do ensure that the sacrifices in a sense – social distancing – that we are asking the British people to make are matched by anybody who comes to this country.

“I am actively looking at these issues right now so that when we have infection rates within the country under control we are not importing.”

Speaking at the Scottish Government’s daily briefing, Ms Freeman urged the UK Government to restrict transmission of Covid-19 from those arriving into Britain.
She said: “That power is reserved to the UK Government – we can’t close those ports, but I think we have made our position very clear.

“Given that it looks likely that all the sacrifices that people have made are being successful, in suppressing the virus, we think that the UK Government should take a very serious look indeed at the potential risk of inward transmission of the virus – and begin to consider very seriously and make decisions very soon about how that particular risk can be managed and managed effectively.

“We have seen it elsewhere and it should be something that we are able to do. We will continue to raise that with the UK Government and press for the right decision to be made.”

Mr Shapps admitted that fewer people would have died from Covid-19 in the UK had testing capacity been ramped up sooner, but he urged people not to “jump to conclusions” in analysing the death toll.

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Asked whether fewer people would have died if testing capacity had been greater sooner, he said: “Yes. If we had had 100,000 test capacity before this thing started and the knowledge that we now have retrospectively I’m sure many things could be different.

“The fact of the matter is this is not a country that had – although we’re very big in pharmaceuticals as a country – a very large test capacity.”

Mr Shapps said it was too early to compare Britain’s excess mortality from coronavirus to other countries.

“There are other factors taken into account on excess mortalities which we won’t know about today - for example what does it do in terms of other illnesses and diseases?”

He added: “We shouldn’t look at the raw data and jump to conclusions on this because actually the NHS has been doing a terrific job and there will be other deaths outside of coronavirus that may or may not have happened had it been handled differently, without for example sufficient hospital capacity.”

But new figures revealed yesterday show the number of daily tests being carried out has fallen to below 80,000.

Statistics published by the UK Government indicate that a total of 76,496 tests were carried out in the 24 hours up to 9am on May 3.

On Friday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced that the Government’s target of 100,000 tests a day by the end of April had been achieved, with more than 122,000 tests having been provided on the last day of the month. Since then, the number has dropped by about 40,000, according to official statistics.

Overall, a total of 1,206,405 coronavirus tests have been carried out in the UK since the beginning of April.

In the Government’s daily briefing yesterday, NHS England’s national medical director Professor Stephen Powis, said: “You will see that testing capacity has ramped up very quickly over the last week or so and we are now at a very high level of testing, over 100,000 – a little bit of a dip in the weekend, but we anticipate that that testing capacity will continue to increase.”

Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove said that steps taken to extend testing would help get more people back to work.

He said: “Thanks to the hard work of so many across the NHS, Public Health England, our pharmaceutical sector and our universities, we have tested over 200,000 key workers and their families, allowing those who don’t have the virus to go back to work and protecting those who do.

“We have now of course extended the criteria for testing beyond key workers to anyone over 65 displaying symptoms, and anyone who has to travel to get to work.

“And “This week, we will be piloting new test, track and trace procedures on the Isle of Wight with a view to having them in place more widely later this month.

“All of these steps will help us to get more people back to work and help to support the delivery of our public services.”

Mr Shapps also warned that the UK will not return to “business as usual” this month.
He told Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday: “I don’t think we should expect us to go from this situation that we have at the moment of social distancing back to where we were in February – that’s clearly not going to happen and I don’t think anyone imagines that for one moment.

“The most important thing is that the absolute focus of what the Prime Minister will be announcing later in the week is that what we do going forward doesn’t undo the brilliant work people have been doing to get that R number below one – the all-critical reproduction rate doesn’t come back up because that’s when we’d see a second spike.

“So, no, I’m afraid it is definitely not going to be business as usual, but we do want to make sure that people understand where the routemap lies.”