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Time to quarantine?

June 4, 2020 2:35 PM

lkb (Photo by Bao Menglong on Unsplash)We have to admit that the Home Secretary probably wouldn't count us amongst her strongest fans. We have a pre-disposition to disbelieve anything she tells us!

The decision to impose 14 days quarantine on anyone entering the UK now does however seem a bit odd

Back in February/March when the growth in virus cases was exploding we left our borders pretty much open unlike countries such as Spain and Australia

In the first quarter of the year over 23 million British and other travellers entered the UK without proper health checks or formal quarantine As a consequence, 516 Border Force and 529 UK Visa and immigration workers were off sick with covid like symptoms before 23 March, a total of 1,045 or 7% of the combined workforce. The absences peaked in the week to 22 March, just before lockdown, for both agencies.

Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union, the biggest union representing Border Force staff, said: "Border Force management have at some airports actively told PCS members at passport control not to wear PPE because it gave the 'wrong impression' to travelling passengers.

Sir Patrick Vallance the Governments Chief Scientific Advisor revealed to a Health and Social Care Committee im early May that we had seen "seeding" of the epidemic in UK as a result of people coming to the UK from Italy and Spain in UK in early March.

It is therefore ironic that according to BBC Newsnight on the day the new scheme was announced to Parliament the UK announced more deaths from the virus than all the other 27 members of the EU combined. Rather than a selective ban on travel from high risk countries such as Brazil, Mexico, US and Russia we have opted for a blanket ban

The Tory former international trade secretary Liam Fox someone we would not normally find ourselves quoting summed it up perfectly

"I'm afraid I simply cannot get my head around the public health mental gymnastics of this policy.

If such a barrier was required, why was it not introduced earlier in the outbreak.

And if it is a contingency measure against a second wave, why apply it to countries with a lower infection rate than we already have.

Surely the answer lies in the government's test-and-trace system, rather than unnecessary economic isolation".

During the crisis the Government has always said it is following the science. And yet at yesterdays daily press conference Sir Patrick Vallance, the government's chief scientific adviser, refused to explicitly back the government's decision to impose quarantine on new arrivals to the UK from next week. He also implied that scientists are sceptical about the policy generally. Asked if Sage, the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, had endorsed this timetable, he said dates and policy were a matter for ministers. He also said quarantine works best when the infection rate is low in the country receiving visitors and high in those countries sending them in. This is not the case with the UK at the moment vis-à-vis arrivals from most EU countries.

The Home Secretary really needs to publish the advice on which the decision is being made. Without it you will have to conclude the decision is political. Amongst a section of the public, polls suggest quarantine is a popular policy and it plays well to those who like to portray johnny foreigner as the cause of many of this countries problems. Why else would you stop the ability of business from getting out to its markets and add uncertainty to those brave souls who are still hoping to get way for a few says in the European sun?