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Covid-19: Quarantine

Volume 677: debated on Monday 8 June 2020

What recent discussions she has had with Cabinet colleagues on the quarantining of people entering the UK during the covid-19 pandemic. (903014)

As set out in my statement last week in the Commons, the public health measures at the border that are being introduced from today are the latest cross-Government measures in our collective response and fight to save lives, protect the British people and, importantly, prevent a second wave of coronavirus. Alongside the Minister for the Cabinet Office and the Secretaries of State for Transport, for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and for Health and Social Care, I have worked across government and the devolved Administrations, with science and industry, to carefully develop this health policy from a cross-Government perspective.

I thank the Home Secretary for her answer, but the reality is that some of the Government’s response is likely to increase the risk of a second wave. It is also not clear why the Government are not agreeing to a 48-hour fast-track system of quarantining, instead of 14 days, which will do damage to our businesses. What steps will she take to ensure that this can be done in 48 hours?

First of all, the policy is clear and it has been outlined not just by me but by other colleagues across government—this is a cross-Government policy. The hon. Lady will be aware that the regulations are public health regulations, and in addition, the specific measures that clearly have an impact on the transport sector are being led by the Department for Transport and other Departments. From a health perspective—this is all about health; these are public health measures at the border—we have been guided not just by the science, but by working with the Department of Health and Social Care and SAGE advice and scientific advisers, in how this policy has been developed.

Scientists say that the quarantine introduced today has come too late. The police say it is unenforceable. The tourism and aviation industry say that it will ruin them, and the Home Secretary’s Department said that it is very hard to imagine how it will practically work. By contrast, our proposal for a 48-hour testing-led model would be targeted and efficient and would keep the country open for business. Can the Home Secretary explain to the House how her plan is better and why the Government think that they are right and everybody else is wrong?

To the hon. Gentleman, I would say the following—first of all, this is not my plan; this is a Government plan and Government policy. In terms of the approach that has been taken, the Government have maintained throughout this pandemic that medical and scientific advice, in terms of border measures, are consistent and are now being applied. That is why throughout this entire outbreak—across the whole Government, working with every Department—we have brought in and identified the right measures. He is right to highlight the impact on business and the economy, which is why I held a roundtable with the transport sector last week. It raised a number of issues about not just quarantine, but business costs and issues around business rates and furlough.

It is not solely for one Department to address these issues, and it is right that we work across government to look at how we can introduce new measures. As the hon. Gentleman might recall from my statement last week and the questions I answered, I covered potential air bridges, fast testing, immunity passports and how we can digitalise the response at the border. That is a cross-Government response and it is something that all my colleagues across government, led by the Department for Transport and the Department of Health and Social Care, are currently working on.

The Secretary of State claimed again that this policy is backed by the science. The chief scientific officer says that it is not. Will the Home Secretary please publish today the advice that she received from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies that led her to introduce this irrational jobs and holidays-destroying measure?

I refer the right hon. Gentleman to the comments that I made in the House last week regarding the scientific advice from the Home Office’s own scientific adviser. Of course, that advice will be published.