The Home Secretary has been accused of leaving the UK “defenseless” in the face of alarming new coronavirus variants – amid calls by the opposition to strengthen border guards.
According to the Prime Minister, ministers will put in place new measures to ensure that people arriving in the UK are tested.
But Labor and some senior Tory MPs called for further action when England imposed its third national lockdown.
Labor Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds wrote to Home Secretary Priti Patel calling for an “urgent review and improvement plan” as he raised concerns about the control of arrivals to be quarantined.
Mr Thomas-Symonds wrote: “It is particularly worrying given concerns about the mutation of the virus that emerged in South Africa, which the Minister of Health rightly described as” incredibly worrying “.
“However, the lack of a robust quarantine system due to government deficiencies means that it is virtually impossible to control this spread or other overseas variants, leaving the UK defenseless and completely exposed to the nation’s doors for further Covid -Mutations opened. “
A Home Office statement defended his “tough measures” and explicitly pointed to his move to stop direct flights from South Africa to the UK amid concerns about a new variant with a high prevalence.
Mr Thomas-Symonds said in his letter that protection against variant strains arriving from overseas was “virtually non-existent”, citing government statements that only 3% of arrivals are expected to be quarantined in England and Northern Ireland have been successfully contacted by compliance auditors in the EU summer.
A government spokesman replied, “The numbers in this letter are inaccurate.
“Border Force did more than three million spot checks and PHE (Public Health England) contacted an additional 1,500 people every day.
“We are determined to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
“Our strict measures, such as mandatory forms for locating passengers and spot checks both at the border and during the quarantine period, have experienced a high level of conformity.”
Concern about the South African variant is particularly high as it is not only viewed as more contagious, but also fears that it could interfere with current vaccines, unlike the novel strain which has achieved high prevalence in England.
Direct flights from South Africa to the UK were suspended last month and many newcomers who have been there in the last 10 days will not be allowed entry.
Conservative former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt on Monday called for borders to be closed and an “off-the-scale” winter crisis is brewing inside the NHS.
Ahead of the Prime Minister’s statement on Monday announcing the lockdown, the chairman of the Commons Health and Social Care Committee wrote on Twitter: “Time to act: think about why we are closing schools and borders and REALLY forbidding any confusion of households have to. ”
The interior minister of the SNP, Joanna Cherry, accused the government of “repeating the same mistakes” by not imposing “effective” restrictions on the border.
“The UK government must stop all but essential travel and put in place a much more stringent system of health checks and border quarantine,” she said.
Speaking at the Downing Street press conference on Tuesday, the prime minister said the government would “take steps to ensure we test people who come to this country and prevent the virus from resuming”.
Ministers are believed to be considering introducing an obligation for international arrivals to test negative for coronavirus before traveling to the UK to address the growing cases. Freight forwarders would be excluded.
Currently, arrivals to England from countries not exempt from the travel corridor program must be isolated for 10 days.
However, as part of the testing and approval scheme introduced in December, this can be shortened if a private test is carried out five days after their departure and the result is negative.
During the initial lockdown, the government opposed the introduction of border restrictions, while the prevalence in the UK was so high. Experts argued that doing little to help lower infection rates.
However, a quarantine period was introduced in June after the first peak and when the cases were better under control.