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Labour bids to force Commons showdown over ‘gaping holes’ in hotel quarantine plans

Written by on 29/01/2021

Labour is attempting to force a showdown on the government’s coronavirus hotel quarantine plans, arguing the “gaping holes” in the proposed system risk undermining the UK’s vaccine rollout.

Boris Johnson announced earlier this week that UK nationals and residents returning to England from 30 “red list” countries already subject to travel bans for non-UK citizens will soon have to quarantine in government-provided accommodation – such as hotels – for 10 days.

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UK introduces mandatory hotel quarantine

The government has not yet revealed when the hotel quarantine plan will come into force, with more details due to be set out next week.

Scotland and Wales have both indicated that they could go further when they announce their measures.

But Labour claims the system does not go far enough in protecting the UK against the import of new variants of COVID-19.

This criticism was rejected by Home Secretary Priti Patel in the Commons on Wednesday.

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She said ministers had “already implemented numerous measures and protections” on borders, with the latest measures offering “additional levels of protection”.

Monday marks one of the allocated Opposition Days in parliament, when non-government parties can choose subjects for debate in the Commons.

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‘A holiday is not a valid reason to travel’

Labour will hold a debate on the border measures, although the intricacies of parliamentary procedure mean a vote will not necessarily follow.

The outcome of any vote is also not binding on the government.

Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said: “Yet again on border security, government action is too little, too late.

“Limiting restrictions to just a handful of countries puts at risk the gains being made by the vaccine, by exposing us to potentially resistant COVID-19 strains, undermining the huge sacrifices of the British people.”

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COVID hotspot travellers will pay for hotel quarantine

The party is calling for travellers arriving from all countries to quarantine in hotels, in order to “shut down the gaping holes in the government’s plans”.

“The plans have no clear basis in science and fail to recognise that we do not know where the next strains of the virus will emerge from, until it is too late,” Mr Thomas-Symonds said.

The party said certain exemptions will be needed, such as for hauliers in order to make sure that vital supplies can still reach the UK.

As well as calling for a “comprehensive” hotel quarantine system, Labour is urging ministers to set out the scientific evidence for limiting the quarantine requirement to the “red list” countries.

A package of support for the aviation sector should also be announced, the party says, focusing on “employment and environmental improvements”.

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Announcing the government’s measures to MPs, the prime minister reiterated that, under England’s national lockdown, it is currently “illegal to leave home to travel abroad for leisure purposes”.

He said the government would “enforce this at ports and airports by asking people why they are leaving and instructing them to return home if they do not have a valid reason to travel”.

And, announcing the new hotel quarantine requirements, Mr Johnson said the government had already banned travel from 30 “red list” countries “where there is a risk of known variants including South Africa, Portugal and South American nations”.

On Thursday, it was announced that three more nations would be added to the list from 1pm on Friday: the United Arab Emirates, Burundi and Rwanda.

 Sky News

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