Labour’s Nick Thomas-Symonds has urged Boris Johnson to introduce an “effective” border testing and quarantining regime, arguing: “Nobody could say that the situation at our borders is satisfactory.”
The shadow home secretary said the country needed a “comprehensive system and plan from the Government and stop moving from one chaotic situation to another”.
The Government, he said, “was an international outlier” in its approach to travel protection as he called on it to “get a grip” after acting “too slowly”, and indicated his support for the use of hotels.
Following the emergence of new variants of the virus in Brazil and South Africa which may be less susceptible to the vaccines, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the Government would adopt a “precautionary” approach to protecting the UK’s borders.
Ministers are expected to meet this week to discuss a proposal to require people arriving in the UK to pay to quarantine in a designated hotel to ensure they are following the rules on self-isolating.
Mr Thomas-Symonds told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “Nobody could say that the situation at our borders is satisfactory or that there is sufficient protection in place for our people against the different strains that could be coming from around the world.
“So we need now to put additional protections in place. We do need that effective border testing regime and we also need an effective quarantining regime which we’ve not had.
“The Government did not introduce a comprehensive quarantining regime until June last year. This Government was an international outlier. If you go back to May last year, it was only the UK, Iran, Luxembourg and the US Virgin Islands that had no travel protections in place.
“It was too slow, it was put into place in June, it isn’t effective at the moment, we need that additional quarantining protection in place. I would support, for example, the introduction of the use of hotels, but above all we need a comprehensive system and plan from the Government and stop moving from one chaotic situation to another.”
He added that “clearly you would have to have a very different system for hauliers, for lorries crossing the English Channel”.
Mr Thomas-Symonds argued the Government introduced a quarantining system far too slowly in June of last year.
He said: “The Government’s own figures show that between June of last year and September around about two million people had their passenger locator forms, their details if you like, spot-checked by Border Force at the border.
“Only around 3% of those were successfully contacted to ensure they were quarantining, now that just isn’t good enough, it isn’t effective. The Government hasn’t had a grip on this situation throughout. We desperately need them to get a grip and have that comprehensive plan in place.”
He added that Government messaging “needs to be more consistent and effective”.
He said: “We would actually have used a far more effective system, wouldn’t have outsourced it in the way the Government has, and we would have acted more quickly.”
On the current lockdown rules, he said: “Could we do more, yes of course we could do more… the situation at the border and I’ve indicated that that absolutely needs to be tightened up. But there’s also an issue around messaging and the Government getting its messaging right.”