BORIS Johnson’s failure to close the borders to travellers from coronavirus hotspots let the killer virus rip through Britain, a withering report has found.
An inquiry by the Commons Home Affairs committee estimated that 10,000 people with Covid-19 may have entered or returned to the UK in March with no restrictions.
They were allowed into the UK from countries with known coronavirus outbreaks, including Italy, Spain and France.
The damning report concluded that the UK’s coronavirus pandemic has been “far worse as a result of the Government’s decision not to require quarantine during March, which would have reduced the number of imported infections”.
The committee was particularly critical of the Government’s decision on 13 March to remove all self-isolation guidance for travellers arriving in the UK at a time when other comparable countries were strengthening their border measures, and when hundreds of new Covid cases were arriving every day.
‘A GRAVE ERROR’
The study also said that more than 1,300 separate strains of the virus were imported largely from Spain, Italy and France between February and March.
Committee boss Yvette Cooper 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 March 13, a full 10 days before lockdown, just at a time when other countries were introducing stronger border measures.
“We were told that thousands more people with Covid-19 came back to the UK after that guidance was lifted.
“So in the middle of March, at a time when the number of people with Covid coming back into the UK was at its peak, they were going back to work or onto public transport or seeing family without any quarantine in place.”
The Government’s failure to provide the scientific advice behind its decisions – despite repeated requests and promises to do so – was “completely unacceptable”, the committee said, as it warned ministers may have been making decisions without sight of “critical information”.
The lack of clarity is “very serious and may well have contributed to mistakes being made”, the MPs said.
Ms Cooper added: “It has been extremely difficult to work out who took key decisions and on what basis.”
Last-minute decisions and mixed messages were also “very unhelpful” for holidaymakers, and the Government needs to be “much more sensitive” to the impact this has on families and businesses.
The committee also remained “unconvinced” by Home Office claims that an estimated 99.9% of the public subjected to quarantine restrictions were complying with the rules and called for the findings to be “better evidenced” and routinely published.
Among a string of recommendations made, the committee said the Government should investigate the viability of carrying out testing at the border and publish a traffic light system to show prevalence rates for different countries for travellers to consider.
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