A few thousand families have been forced to pay more than £ 20million in costs of compulsory self-isolation, Sam Bright reports
As rates of COVID-19 cases skyrocket in the UK, close scrutiny continues to be applied to the government on the root cause. In today’s Prime Minister’s Questions, Labor leader Keir Starmer strongly blamed Boris Johnson.
“Let’s be clear why the infection rates are so high – because the Prime Minister left the Delta, or we can call it the Johnson variant, in the country,” he said.
This refers to claims Johnson chose not to close UK borders to India earlier, amid a growing variant of COVID-19 in the country, because he feared jeopardizing a possible deal. post-Brexit trade.
“It is very clear that we should have closed the border with India earlier and Boris did not because he did not want to offend Modi,” a source close to the government decision making on the coronavirus. Told Time.
The government finally added India to the “red list” on April 23, although neighboring Pakistan and Bangladesh have been on it since April 9. A traveler entering the UK from a Red List country is required to self-quarantine at a state-mandated hotel establishment.
Boris Johnson cheated on MPsOn unusable PPE
So attention has turned to the UK’s quarantine system – and a series of written parliamentary questions from MPs have revealed disturbing details.
A Labor MP Justin Madders asked the government “what estimate [it has] fact of the number and proportion of travelers returning to the UK from Red List countries who have been exempted from hotel quarantine measures ”.
Indeed, the government lists a range of professions that are exempt from COVID-19 quarantine rules – including cross-border travel workers and border security officers.
However, the information requested by Madders is “currently not available”, according to Health Minister Jo Churchill, as it is being “centrally collated and validated”. He was revealed in April a quarter of people arriving in the UK from countries not on the red list could not be contacted by UK authorities.
Another question from Labor MP Gill Furniss asked how many family quarantine rooms have been requested by travelers from Red List countries. Adult travelers in quarantine must pay £ 1,750 per head for their 10-day self-isolation. A supplement of £ 650 must be paid for each person over 11 and £ 325 for a child aged 5-11.
In response to Furniss’ question, the government revealed that 10,300 bookings had been made for family rooms between February and early July, or 12.7% of total hotel quarantine bookings. Families were therefore forced to pay at least £ 20.6million in total for their 10-day hotel quarantine. The total cost for travelers forced into quarantine has been in the order of £ 150million, based on statistics released by the government.
The management of the hotel quarantine system has been entrusted by the government to the business travel company Corporate Travel Management. At the end of June, the BBC reported that four women claimed to have been sexually harassed by guards working for security firm G4S – hired to ensure hotel guests obey quarantine rules.
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Quarantine is needed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 variants from abroad. However, the UK system has been criticized as inflexible and costly – in many cases families returning home from abroad face exorbitant costs. A recent Guardian item documented the stories of several people who are now stranded abroad – who left the country before the current redlist restrictions were implemented – due to the costs of the national quarantine.
As part of the quarantine system put in place by New Zealand, for example, returning nationals are not charged if they left the country before the policy went into effect (August 11 of last year) and return for more than 180 days. However, in response to a question from Conservative MP Julian Sturdy, the government said it had not assessed the merits of implementing a similar policy.
It’s only announced this week that travelers entering the UK from Red List countries suffering from financial hardship will be able to request waivers or reductions on the cost of hotel quarantine. The government has accepted to change the policy after an application for judicial review of the policy by the law firm PGMBM.
“This policy was rushed by parliament and introduced without thinking about how its single application would penalize vulnerable citizens and residents,” a senior associate of PGMBM told the Guardian. “We are very happy that our challenge has prompted the government to review the policy, but it remains frustrating that it has taken legal steps to make changes.
“Thousands of people have been subjected to exorbitant costs in recent months or have been barred entirely from taking essential trips or returning home due to the financial hardship they would face after paying the quarantine fee. “
The Ministry of Health and Social Affairs and the Ministry of Transport have been contacted for comment.
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