Politics

Priti Patel issues stark warning about a second coronavirus wave

PRITI PATEL has warned that bringing in a mandatory quarantine for those who arrive in the UK is key to preventing a second coronavirus outbreak.

Writing for The Telegraph, the Home Secretary warned “we will all suffer if we get this wrong” while claiming the tourism industry will be restored faster if strict restrictions are put in place. The commentary mentions the so-called air bridges that would allow quarantine-free journeys between the UK and specific countries.

The Cabinet has experienced frequent debates over the 14-day quarantine imposed on those arriving in the UK from Monday.

Priti Patel wrote the article jointly with Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, who first proposed the idea of establishing air corridors, in an attempt to show consensus over the decision.

Various Cabinet members raised the issue that it was key that air bridges were functional before July and it is understood that Downing Street has not rejected the possibility.

However, Home Office sources have emphasised that air bridges may not be in use by the end of this month.

Critics said the measure should have been implemented at the beginning of the pandemic.

Professor Neil Ferguson, the Imperial College modeller who persuaded the Prime Minister to implement lockdown, said on Tuesday that in late February and early March “thousands of infected individuals came into the country” from Spain and Italy and not, as believed, from China, the US and Asia.

A YouGov poll revealed that 63 percent of those surveyed supported Ms Patels stance on implementing a quarantine on most arrivals.

A quarter argued that the quarantine should only apply to countries with high infection numbers.

Only four percent of those who took part in the poll were against any quarantine.

Bosses of over 300 of the UKs leading travel and hospitality firms warned the Government the move could force them to lay off up to 60 percent of their workforce, even with air corridors set up by the end of June.

Priti Patel argued that the restriction would ensure the virus would stop spreading and consequently everything could go back to normal sooner.

She added that this would enable the tourism industry be “up and running faster.”

She said: “We will all suffer if we get this wrong and that is why it is crucial that we introduce these measures now.

“Lets not throw away our progress in tackling this deadly virus. We owe it to the thousands who have died.

“The Government will review these and other measures, looking at global infection rates, the measures in place around the world, and the latest scientific advances to consider further options such as international travel corridors.

“But as the Prime Minister has outlined, we must take it one step at a time.

“We must keep the country safe from potentially infected passengers unknowingly spreading the virus to others in society and ensure that the publics health always comes first.”

The Department for Transport and Home Office are discussing “travel corridors” between the UK and countries that are less affected by the virus, but it is uncertain whether any changes could be made before June 29, when the next policy review is due.

The Prime Minister told Mondays Cabinet meeting that quarantine was “an important policy to restrict the spread of the virus.”

A Whitehall source said: “If you look at any other countries in the world that have got a grip on coronavirus they have got very robust quarantine measures in place.”

But George Morgan-Grenville, chief executive of tour firm Red Savannah, who was leading a group of 300 businesses who oppose the policy, said it was “a blunt weapon which will bring only economic disaster.”

Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee of backbench Conservative MPs, said there was “quite considerable concern” among MPs about the potential damage.

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