Priti Patel insisted a 14-day quarantine for UK arrivals is essential to save lives despite the government’s own scientific advisers distancing themselves from the plan.
The Home Secretary yesterday defied a huge Tory revolt led by former Prime Minister Theresa May to tell MPs the blanket rule will come into force from Monday, with the next review not due to happen until the end of the month.
She admitted it will hit businesses hard and confirmed travel corridors are being considered to low-infection countries.
Sources also claim that there is frustration among some members of the board, who feel that introducing the restrictions is ‘not following the science while one scientist blasted the proposals for making no sense.
Sir Patrick said at yesterday’s Downing Street briefing: The Sage advice is that measures like this are most effective when cases are very low and when they are applied to countries with higher rates.
He added the implementation of the measures were a political decision and noted there were still relatively large numbers of new infections in Britain.
Mark Woolhouse, from the University of Edinburgh and a member of the SPI-M group, which models the pandemic for Sage, said that the quarantine would only have a negligible impact on public health.
He told the Times: It’s a very odd time to bring it in. It makes no sense as a public health measure. When quarantining people coming in from overseas is a really good idea is when there is a high probability they have the infection.
There are probably a handful of cases coming in and [quarantine brings] an undetectable benefit from a public health point of view.
With limited exceptions for lorry drivers and NHS workers, everyone coming to the country by plane, rail or sea from Monday will be ordered to give an address and self-isolate for two weeks, with spot checks from officials.
While she was adamant the clampdown was ‘proportionate’ to ensure coronavirus did not spike again, Ms Patel did raise hopes by saying the government is looking at ‘international travel corridors’ to low infection countries in the future.