Families should expect a ‘knock on the door’ when they return from abroad, Priti Patel warned last night.
The Home Secretary said enforcement was being stepped up to make sure travellers who visit amber-list countries such as France, Spain and Italy obey the ten-day quarantine rule.
Officials have the capacity to carry out 10,000 home visits a day and 30,000 were conducted last week.
Anyone found to be out when supposedly self-isolating risks a fine of up to £10,000 – although few have been levied so far.
The warning came despite growing optimism of an end to Covid curbs next month and after days of confusion over amber-list countries.
Boris Johnson told MPs yesterday that visits to these medium-risk destinations were acceptable only in ‘extreme circumstances’.
But one analysis said up to 270,000 Britons will fly to amber countries in the five days to Sunday.
Families should expect a ‘knock on the door’ when they return from abroad, Priti Patel warned last night. Pictured: A beach in Malaga this month
Around 1,300 flights were scheduled, carrying up to 54,000 passengers a day to destinations including Spain, Greece, France and Italy.
Miss Patel was asked by the Mail yesterday whether these holidaymakers should expect a ‘knock on the door’ when they got home.
She replied: ‘Yes, people should. There is a service, provision is in place, capacity has been increased for that very reason. People will not go unchecked.
‘Significant resources have been put in place – millions of pounds – in terms of the follow-up checking of people around their testing and making sure they stay at home. It has been stepped up.’
The Home Secretary (pictured on Wednesday) said enforcement was being stepped up to make sure travellers who visit amber-list countries such as France, Spain and Italy obey the ten-day quarantine rule
Tory MPs warned that a ‘heavy handed’ approach to enforcement would backfire when there was hope that coronavirus restrictions could be lifted on June 21.
Both Boris Johnson and Health Secretary Matt Hancock yesterday said they were increasingly confident that coronavirus jabs were effective against all variants – including the Indian strain.
In other developments:
- Deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam said it now looked like the Indian variant spread less quickly than feared;
- He also said the death rate – now averaging eight a day – was ‘extremely low’;
- Dr Jenny Harries of the UK Health Security Agency said there was no sign of hospital admissions going up anywhere in England;
- Booster shots will be tested against the Indian variant in a world-first trial;
- Professor Neil Ferguson suggested mixing jabs might boost immunity;
- Bolton’s Tory council leader warned of ‘civil unrest’ if a local lockdown was imposed;
- Ryanair launched a £5 flight sale to a string of amber-list countries;
- Direct flights from India arrived in the UK yesterday despite its huge death toll;
- Government sources played down the prospect of any new destinations being added to the quarantine-free green list next month;
- The NHS said that people aged 34 and over can book their Covid-19 jab from today.
Officials have the capacity to carry out 10,000 home visits a day and 30,000 were conducted last week (file image)
Indian flights still arriving
Direct flights from India continued to arrive in the UK yesterday – despite the country recording the world’s highest daily coronavirus death toll.
More than 4,500 deaths were recorded in India on Tuesday – the deadliest day in a single country since the pandemic began.
The previous highest daily toll was in the US in January, when 4,468 people died. Ministers are facing growing questions over why direct flights from India are still landing in the UK several weeks after the country was added to the travel red list.
Four direct flights arrived from India at Heathrow yesterday. The highly transmissible Indian strain is now the dominant coronavirus strain in Bolton and Blackburn.
The Government lifted the ban on travel on Monday.
But after replacing the outright embargo with a traffic light system, the situation has been mired in chaos. Thousands have flown to amber countries only to be told that they should not travel to them unless it is absolutely essential.
The green list covers only Portugal, along with Gibraltar, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Iceland and the Faroe Islands, plus several small remote islands which are British Overseas Territories.
Travellers to amber countries must self-isolate at home for ten days on their return and take two tests.
A Home Office source said 7,000 home visits were carried out by Test and Trace officials on Tuesday.
The ministry has also established a new Isolation Assurance and Compliance service to monitor arrivals from amber-list countries.
Where people are found to be away from home, police are called to issue fines. A total of 639 have been handed out to date, though this number is now likely to rise significantly.
The approach and mixed messaging has angered the travel industry, which has been left on its knees by a year of on-off lockdowns.
Former Brexit secretary David Davis said: ‘The difficulty is that when the message is confused – and it couldn’t be more confused in this case – people don’t pay attention. It’s the worst of all worlds – it damages the economy, and people are too scared to go away.’
Boris Johnson told MPs yesterday that visits to these medium-risk destinations were acceptable only in ‘extreme circumstances’. Pictured: Police in Heathrow Airport earlier this year
Asked about the prospect of officials knocking at the doors of amber-list returnees, he said: ‘It is heavy-handed, and it won’t work yet again.
‘It’ll be just as effective as the last test and trace.’
Professor Ferguson, who advises the Government on Covid, last night said the effectiveness of home quarantine was ‘much lower than we might have hoped’.
He told ITV’s Peston show: ‘If you’re wanting to stop variants coming into the country through border measures then the only really effective way of doing that is quarantine outside the home.’
Mr Hancock insisted yesterday that the public messaging had been ‘crystal clear’.
Airlines’ fury at No10 amber list debacle: PM says we should only travel to medium risk countries in ‘extreme circumstances’ – but 5m have trips booked
By David Churchill Transport Correspondent
Travel bosses reacted with fury last night after Boris Johnson hardened his stance on trips to amber list countries.
The Prime Minister said families should visit medium-risk destinations only in ‘extreme circumstances’ and not for holidays.
On Monday he was less definitive, saying such trips should be for ‘pressing’ family or business reasons only.
Confusion reigned earlier this week when two Cabinet ministers suggested leisure breaks and visits to family and friends would be acceptable. Adding to the chaos health minister Lord Bethell claimed all holidays abroad were ‘dangerous’.
The contradictory messages have left holidaymakers and travel chiefs begging for clarity. Around five million Britons have booked amber list breaks this summer, leaving them in limbo over whether to cancel or re-book and hope their destination makes the green list.
On Monday the outright ban on foreign travel was replaced by a green, amber and red traffic light system grading different countries by their Covid risk level.
Travel bosses reacted with fury last night after Boris Johnson hardened his stance on trips to amber list countries. Pictured: Heathrow airport
The Prime Minister said families should visit medium-risk destinations only in ‘extreme circumstances’ and not for holidays. Pictured: Boris Johnson on Wednesday
But amid concern over foreign variants, ministers then said that no one should go on holiday in an amber country even if they quarantined on return.
Writing in the Mail, Tim Alderslade of Airlines UK, which represents major carriers, said: ‘Just as our beleaguered travel and tourism companies have started to look ahead with hope, illogical, confusing and alarming messaging from ministers risk the whole system unravelling before it has even had a chance to get going.
‘Why demonise those who have decided to travel to an amber country in full knowledge of the extra health measures, including quarantine, that are put in place to guard against any additional risk from Covid?’
George Morgan-Grenville, of luxury tour operator Red Savannah, said the traffic light system was ‘lunacy’. He added: ‘What is the point of the amber list? You may as well make the amber list the red list. What’s the point of having a passport? What’s the point of legalising travel again, only to say that you can’t travel?’
Julia Lo Bue-Said, of Advantage Travel Partnership, said: ‘This is typical nanny state tactics. Surely the British public can make up their own mind if they wish to quarantine in order to visit an amber country. As long as protocols are followed, testing is in place and rules in the destination are adhered to we see no reason why we cannot be allowed to travel safely to amber destinations for leisure. Otherwise, make those amber countries red.’
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer confronted Mr Johnson over the fiasco at PMQs in the Commons yesterday, accusing ministers of having ‘lost control of the messaging’.
He added: ‘If he doesn’t want people to travel to amber list countries, why has he made it easier for them to do so?’
On Monday the outright ban on foreign travel was replaced by a green, amber and red traffic light system grading different countries by their Covid risk level. Pictured: Heathrow airport on Wednesday
Mr Johnson replied: ‘It is very, very clear Mr Speaker. You should not be going to an amber list country except for some extreme circumstance, such as the serious illness of a family member. You should not be going to an amber list country on holiday. And if you do go to an amber list country we will enforce the ten-day quarantine period and if you break the rules you face very substantial fines.’
At a Downing Street press conference last night Mr Hancock said: ‘If you look at what the PM said last week, what I said at the weekend, what I said in the House on Monday, what the PM said at lunch today, we’ve been absolutely crystal clear – that you should not go to an amber or red list country on holiday. You should only go for exceptional circumstances. An example might be to visit a very ill family member or to go to a funeral of somebody very close to you.’
Of the decision not to ban amber travel completely, he added: ‘There are some things that we have banned in law but there are some things we do not recommend. You don’t necessarily have to ban everything as a government minister.’
Just 12 destinations are green, with most in remote parts of the world or with strict entry measures in place or outright bans on British tourists.
And in a further blow, there were reports last night that no new countries will join the green list ‘for some considerable time’. It means beach holidays to popular hotspots such as Spain, Italy and Greece may not be possible until July or even August.
Confusion reigned earlier this week when two Cabinet ministers suggested leisure breaks and visits to family and friends would be acceptable. Adding to the chaos health minister Lord Bethell claimed all holidays abroad were ‘dangerous’. Pictured: Heathrow airport on Wednesday
Appearing on ITV’s Peston show last night, Michael O’Leary of Ryanair was asked if he understood the UK travel rules. ‘No and I think most of the UK population doesn’t understand them either,’ he replied. ‘But I’m happy to say that for about the past four weeks they’ve been booking in their droves, mainly I think they’re booking into June, July, August, and September.
‘People are ignoring the short-term restrictions and working out they’ll be safe to fly in late June, July, August when the school holidays come around and they’re booking in their literally hundreds of thousands on a daily basis.’
Virginia Messina, of the World Travel & Tourism Council, said: ‘Disagreements over whether or not you can travel to an ‘amber country’ are baffling consumers and leaving the travel and tourism sector in disarray.’
Gillian Keegan, the skills minister, said she was ‘desperate’ to visit her second home in Spain but now was not the time to holiday there.