Covid-19: Boris Johnson govt rapped for delay in imposing border curbs
The Home Affairs Select Committee is particularly critical in its report of the decision on March 13 to remove self-isolation guidance for travellers arriving at a time when other comparable countries were strengthening their border measures.Updated: Aug 05, 2020 23:21 IST
An influential committee of UK parliament on Wednesday criticised the Boris Johnson government for allowing thousands of travellers into the UK without requiring them to self-isolate before the March 23 lockdown, which led to a “far worse” situation.
The Home Affairs Select Committee is particularly critical in its report of the decision on March 13 to remove self-isolation guidance for travellers arriving at a time when other comparable countries were strengthening their border measures.
At the time, it said hundreds of new coronavirus cases were arriving every day, particularly from Spain, Italy and France, including British residents returning home. It also added that the decision not to include Spain in country-specific measures in late February was a mistake.
The cross-party committee said it was unable to find any scientific evidence to justify this “inexplicable decision” and says that the failure to have any special border measures in place in mid March was a “serious error”.
As of Tuesday night, there were 46,299 deaths and 306,293 cases in the UK, making it the worst affected European country and one of the worst in the world. Recent decline in deaths and cases has prompted the government to ease restrictions.
Yvette Cooper, committee chair, said: “The government’s failure to have proper quarantine measures in place in March as the infection was spreading fast was a grave error and meant Covid spread faster and reached more people”.
“The UK was almost unique in having no border checks or quarantine arrangements at that time. That alone should have rung loud alarm bells for ministers and made them think again”.
“Many times Ministers told us they were following the science, but we cannot find any science at all behind their completely inexplicable decision to lift all the self isolation guidance for travellers on 13 March a full ten days before lockdown”, she added.
Drawing on evidence that thousands of people with the virus arrived in or returned to the UK in February and March, the committee concluded that the UK’s experience has been “far worse” as a result of the decision not to require quarantine during March.
Cooper added: “We are concerned that border measures just weren’t taken seriously enough at the beginning of the crisis, either in the discussions among scientific advisers or in ministerial decision making”.
“It appears ministers took decisions without critical information they should have had, and it has been extremely difficult to work out who took key decisions and on what basis”.