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Published on Monday, February 8, 2021

'Move faster on UK border controls', says Labour

Labour is calling on the Government to move faster on mandatory quarantining at UK borders.

Speaking to the BBC following the daily Downing Street briefing, Shadow Health Minister Alex Norris said he was "cheered" to hear the latest vaccine take-up figures.

But he said he was surprised that border quarantines were not discussed at the briefing.

"We need to quicken this up," he said.

"The best way to guard against them [new variants] is to have quarantine at the borders. It's taken weeks and weeks and weeks for it to happen."

At the Downing Street briefing Health Secretary Matt Hancock said almost one in four UK adults has now received at least one dose of the vaccine. Testing has identified 147 cases of the South Africa variant of the coronavirus in the UK, but England's deputy chief medical officer Professor Van Tam said the variant isn't expected to overtake current dominant strains in the coming months.

Mandatory hotel quarantine - which is due to start from February 15 - is being introduced in an effort to limit the spread of new variants of coronavirus first identified in South Africa and Brazil.

Responding to questions over whether people should be prepared for tougher restrictions on travel until there is widespread vaccination, Hancock said: "The proportion of cases coming from abroad at the moment is obviously very low, not least because it is currently illegal to go on holiday anyway."

He said until more is known about the impact of the vaccines on all the different variants 'the precautionary principle is the right approach'.

Asked whether it was too early to book summer holidays in the UK, Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said it was 'just too early'.

"We don't yet have the read-outs on the success of the vaccine programme although I expect we'll start to see these in one to two weeks."

"The more elaborate your plans are for the summer holidays in terms of crossing borders, in terms of household mixing, given where we are now, I think we just have to say, the more you're stepping into making guesses about the unknown at this point.

"I can't give people a proper answer at this point. We don't yet have the data, it's just too early."

The continued lack of detail on the new hotel quarantine plan that is scheduled to start on 15 February comes amid reports that no formal contracts with quarantine hotels have as yet been signed.

Speaking to journalists on Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson's official spokesman said The Department of Health issued a 'commercial specification to hotels near ports and airports'.

"This asked for proposals on how they could deliver managed quarantine facilities.

"No formal contracts have been awarded yet."

Around 60 hotels and travel companies are understood to be discussing the Government's plans to quarantine more than 1,000 arrivals to the UK every day from 15 February.

The Government is looking to secure hotel rooms close to 10 UK airports, including London Heathrow, London Gatwick, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen.

UK citizens arriving from countries on the Government's 'red list' - of which there are currently 33 - will have to stay in the hotels for 10 days at a cost of about £80 a night.

By Louise Longman, Contributing Editor (UK)



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