UK at risk of 'reinfection by the back door' if it opens up for travellers
The foreign secretary has warned the UK risks being ‘reinfected by the back door’ if it removes the quarantine for travellers too soon.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to raise the coronavirus 14-day isolation period with French president Emmanuel Macron during his visit to London today.
But Dominic Raab says the government also wants to ‘open up’ the UK when it ‘safely and responsibly can’.
He told Sky News: ‘We’re going to look at it very carefully. As we’ve always said, the quarantine is there to stop the risk of reinfection precisely because we’ve got Covid down.’
Asked why it was in place when UK infection rates were higher than France, he said: ‘It’s not quite as simple as that though – because we’ve seen in Europe and in Asia that as countries come out of lockdown the risk of second waves and second spikes.
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‘But we will look at all the factors very carefully. We want to open up as soon as we safely and responsibly can and we will look at all the mechanisms to do so and of course we’ll have a good conversation with the French.
‘I’ll be in Berlin tomorrow so we’re talking to all of our European partners about these things.’
Mr Raab further told the BBC the UK needed to avoid ‘reinfection by the back door’.
He said on BBC Breakfast: ‘Once we have got the prevalence and also the transmission rate of the virus even further down we can open up in a swifter way and in a more sure-footed way.’
When asked about the situation in New Zealand where Covid-19 was reintroduced by two British arrivals, Mr Raab replied: ‘It just shows you how careful we need to be.
‘You can point to a specific example like that, and it is perfectly legitimate to do so, but overall the public have been terrific in following the guidelines.’
His comments come after the revelation ‘air bridges’ to get around the quarantine could be announced by the end of the month.
Mr Raab said there could be a risk of legal challenges if the UK tries to form these travel bridges with particular countries and exclude others.
He added on the BBC: ‘What we are going to look at is how (international travel) can be done safely and responsibly.
‘Of course there is a risk of legal challenge if you open up for one country and not others so we want to make sure we can open up – and this is our starting point – as soon as we can safely and responsibly do so.
‘If you open up the airports and don’t open up the Eurotunnel, or if you open up to one country but not in relation to others, there is always a risk of legal challenge.’
Mr Raab said public health had to be ‘front and centre’ of decision making.
When asked why UK travellers are not being questioned on their reason for leaving the country, Mr Raab said: ‘That is a fundamentally misunderstanding of Foreign Office travel advice.
‘We – based on the risk to UK travellers abroad because of terrorism or because of Covid-19 or the vulnerability of the the systems in the country – give advice.’
He told BBC Breakfast that the final decision was then for the traveller themselves to make.
Mr Raab said the fine for failing to quarantine for 14 days upon return to the UK is £1,000, adding: ‘That can be increased.’
He said the public needed to follow the rules ‘not because there is a sanction but because it is in the nation’s health and national interest’.
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