Only around 10% of passengers arriving in the UK are screened to ensure they are complying with coronavirus quarantine rules.
Border checks to ensure travelers have completed passenger search forms are “very simple”, are not carried out on “every arriving passenger” and appear to be “unenforceable” according to a union official.
In June, the UK’s 14-day self-isolation policy was introduced for arrivals with a few exceptions. Violations will result in fines ranging from £ 100 to £ 1,000.
The rules require travelers to fill out a form prior to their arrival providing contact information, travel details and an address where they would like to self-isolate upon arrival in the country.
Lucy Moreton, a professional officer at Immigration Services Union who represents border guards, said, “The check is very, very simple. Was the form simply completed, is the information it contains vaguely plausible? Unless this is obviously unreliable, we accept the data given there at face value. “
Speaking to the Commons Home Affairs Committee on Wednesday, Ms. Moreton said, “We do not screen every incoming passenger. We aim to check approximately 10% of the arrivals with a high level of compliance with this carrier. “
When asked how effective the controls are, she replied: “Unfortunately, they are very limited. There is simply no way at the border to check the accuracy of the data there. “
Ms Moreton added that the majority of union members’ concerns “focus on the fact that this appears to be unenforceable,” added, “We are not verifying addresses.
“If they didn’t go where they told us they were going to go, we lost them. Britain is a very big place.
“Individuals can fill in anything they want in the passenger search form. We don’t ask.” You then get on mass transportation to enter the UK. You can move with very little enforcement. “
She also said the rate of verbal abuse experienced by Border Force staff “has since gone over the roof” because passengers are not told to fill out the form and are angry when they do this at the Found out arrival.
Tour operators face a £ 4,000 fine for failing to provide information about the coronavirus to passengers prior to their arrival in England.
Police chiefs initially said officials would play a “limited role” in enforcing quarantine rules, with Public Health England seeking help from the armed forces if they had difficulty finding anyone who had arrived in the UK to make sure they comply with the regulations.
At the start of the session, Thames Valley Police Chief John Campbell told MPs that his armed forces have received 621 reports of possible quarantine violations since the rules were in place, including 521 since November.
As a result, the force imposed 15 fines after officials ruled that quarantine rules had been violated.
Mr Campbell said the workload is not “insignificant” to the police and has been increasing.
MPs also heard from health experts that a pre-travel test and a shorter quarantine period that culminates with a Covid test could be more effective and likely improve compliance.
Examples of better compliance abroad were highlighted, where some Asian countries and Australia have resorted to mandatory hotel quarantine to monitor them.
Professor Annelies Wilder-Smith of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) said border controls should be increased for at least 50% of passengers for them to be effective, adding, “If you are quarantine and isolated, you have to get it right.
“Either you’re doing it right or you’re not doing it at all.”
In July, Home Secretary Priti Patel said coronavirus quarantine compliance by people entering and leaving the UK had been “incredibly high”, at a rate of 99.9% over four weeks since the restrictions were in place.