Sage scientist criticises government over 'pretty lax' lockdown international travel rules

George Martin
·3 min read
Coronavirus health warnings are seen in the arrivals hall after at London Heathrow Airport in west London, on January 15, 2021. - International travellers will need to present proof of a negative coronavirus test result in order to be allowed into England, or face a £500 ($685, 564 euros) fine on arrival, from January 18. (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP) (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images)
Coronavirus health warnings are seen in the arrivals hall after at London Heathrow Airport. (Getty)

A Sage expert has criticised the government for its “pretty lax” approach to quarantining international arrivals.

Professor John Edmunds, a member of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), urged ministers to “beef up” checks on people entering the UK.

Citing concerns over new variants discovered in South Africa and Brazil, Prof Edmunds said that if there is a quarantine policy it should be made “as effective as you possibly can”.

Prof Edmunds told Times Radio: “Our rules have been rather lax, not just for visitors coming into the UK the vast majority of whom do not have COVID but we’ve also been rather lax with our quarantine of individuals who have been in direct contact with a case; indigenous cases.

Watch: Travel corridors scrapped over new coronavirus strains

“We’ve been pretty lax about that.

“We just ask them to stay at home and so I think yes, if we’re going to have quarantine we should try and make it work as best as possible.”

It comes after The Sunday Times reported that the government is considering making international arrivals quarantine in a hotel for two weeks at their own expense.

Professor John Edmunds poses for a photograph outside the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) in London, Britain April 6, 2020. Picture taken April 6, 2020. To match Special Report HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/BRITAIN-PATH REUTERS/Simon Dawson
Professor John Edmunds said the government should “beef up” checks on people entering the UK. (Reuters)

Read more: Experts call for stricter 'Asia-style' lockdown rules to tackle new COVID variant

Foreign secretary Dominic Raab, when asked about the report, said the government would “consider all the measures in the round”.

Raab told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “In terms of enforcement, we are going to be strengthening the checks at the border – so when people come in to make sure that they have filled out the passenger location form, that they have got that negative test that they have to vouch for before they get on the flight.

“Also, because the effect of abolishing or suspending the travel corridors is that people go into quarantine and self-isolation for 10 days, we’re making sure that Public Health England checks to make sure people are adhering to those rules.

“As well as changing the rules, we are also making sure that we beef up the capacity to make those checks.”

Raab dismissed claims that the Government had been "too slow" in setting up border measures to prevent the importation of new coronavirus variants.

He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme: "I don't accept that we have been too slow in this - we are broadly the same pace in terms of Canada and Germany."

Labour said it would “look at” the option of quarantine hotels, but shadow work and pensions secretary Jonathan Reynolds said he was “not sure” it was the “most effective” measure.

The shadow work and pensions secretary told Sky's Ridge on Sunday: "If that is the most effective way to tackle that, I'd look at that. I'm not sure necessarily it is the case."

Watch: What you can and can't do during England's third national lockdown