Government 'failed to act' on SAGE advice to close borders two weeks ago 4 months ago

Government 'failed to act' on SAGE advice to close borders two weeks ago

The advice was given two weeks ago

Boris Johnson is alleged to have ignored advice from top scientists to close British borders in order to keep out new variants of Covid-19, according to leaked minutes from a SAGE meeting.

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In minutes leaked to The Times overnight, SAGE told the government that "reactive, geographically targeted" bans on particular variants hotspots would no sufficiently prevent the spread of new variants.

"No intervention, other than a complete, pre-emptive closure of borders, or the mandatory quarantine of all visitors upon arrival in designated facilities, irrespective of testing history, can get close to fully preventing the importation of new cases or new variants," SAGE was quoted as saying.

The government has disputed the claims, saying that SAGE did explicitly advise Johnson to close the borders.

Last week, Boris Johnson finally did what many countries did almost a year ago, and introduced mandatory hotel quarantine for arrivals from a 30-strong list of 'high-risk' countries.

The travellers will be forced to quarantine for 10 days upon their arrival, at a reported cost of £1,500. The system is expected to be in place within weeks, by which time it will be roughly a year since the pandemic began.

On Monday, not a single Conservative party MP turned up to a non-binding Labour-tabled vote focused on introducing stricter border controls in the United Kingdom in a bid to halt the spread of the virus.

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The opposition day motion passed unopposed with 262 votes in favour and none against after all Tory MPs followed the prime minister's orders and abstained from taking part.

Labour, however, have called on the government to make hotel quarantine mandatory for all international arrivals and Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds has said it was "deeply irresponsible for the government to not back Labour’s proposals to toughen up our defences against Covid variants".

Speaking on BBC Radio 4 on Tuesday morning, Thomas-Symonds said: “I would bring in the mandatory hotel quarantining for all arrivals. Of course, there would be exceptions to that, haulage for example.”

Of the South African strain of the virus, the spread of which has led to offers of door-to-door Covid test in parts of Surrey, he said: "We are in a race against time and ministers are missing a vital chance to help shut the door on virus mutations that could have a devastating impact on people’s lives and the economy."