HUNDREDS of foreigners with fake Covid certificates are flooding into the UK every week, MPs heard yesterday – as experts warned the Indian variant could be running rampant.
Border officials say around 100 dodgy certificates, which supposedly prove someone has tested negative, are being identifed every day at airports.
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But many more are being missed because they are written in foreign languages and the documents are “very easy to knock up online”.
Dr Gabriel Scally, professor of public health at the University of Bristol, said adding India to the red list this week was like “shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted”.
He said prevalence of the Indian variant may be 20 times higher than the 103 cases detected so far because only five to ten per cent of positive swab tests are sent to labs where they are scanned for variants.
Lucy Moreton, of the Immigration Services Union, said it is impossible to know if people follow quarantine rules when they arrive in the UK because “the whole system is based on trust”.
FAKE COVID CERTIFICATES
She said: “We trust people when they say they haven’t been in a red list country in the last 10 days, and that they’re going to quarantine.
“The whole thing is based on an assumption that people will do the right thing, but I’m not sure the behavioural studies actually indicate that people do.”
She added: “We catch 100 or more fake Covid certificates every day, if there’s a spelling error in it somewhere.
“If the certificate is in another language, they’re usually taken at face value. But these things are very easy to knock up online, unfortunately.”
Ms Moreton was speaking to the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Coronavirus, which is carrying out an inquiry into the government’s handling of the pandemic and make recommendations.
She warned there have been delays of up to seven hours at airport arrivals halls while officers comb through thousands of certificates – and the situation will get much worse if people start jetting off on summer holidays.
Describing airports as virus “breeding grounds”, she said: “They’ve all flown on a plane with lots of other people and then stand together for five or six hours waiting to be processed.
“It’s not possible to segregate people from red, amber and green countries.
They’re all mixing in a confined space. It’s impossible to isolate the risk.
“We can’t manage it now. There’s absolutely no way we can manage any increase in demand, without a very significant increase in queues.”
Layla Moran MP, chairman of the APPG, said: “This stark evidence exposes how current border checks are totally inadequate to stop Covid cases entering the UK, including dangerous variants.
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“The government must act now to stop our airports becoming breeding grounds for the virus.
“That means reducing overcrowding in arrival halls, separating passengers arriving from red list countries and carrying out thorough checks to root out fake documentation and ensure people comply with the rules.
“The government should be actively discouraging foreign travel and be transparent about the risks it carries, rather than using a traffic light system that gives a false sense of security.”