Matt Hancock denied the government was “losing control” of the coronavirus crisis, as the government launched a new ‘island corridor’ travel quarantine policy.
The health secretary admitted the sharp rise in daily cases to 2,988 on Sunday – the highest daily figure since late May – was “concerning” but said they were predominantly among younger people from affluent areas.
He made the comments before seven Greek islands were added to England’s quarantine list and a school in Suffolk was forced to close on Monday after five teachers tested positive for Covid-19, while two others awaited their test results.
Show latest update
Spain passes 500,000 total cases
Spain has passed 500,000 confirmed coronavirus cases following a surge of infections among younger people. It is the first country in Western Europe to reach the half-million mark.
Health Ministry data released today showed a total of 525,549 cases, up from 498,989 on Friday, and 2,440 infections registered in the last 24 hours.
Eight new deaths were also reported, bringing the total to 29,516.
Peter Stubley7 September 2020 17:30
UK ‘too slow’ on travel quarantine
British Airways said the government had acted too slowly to take the ‘obvious’ step to treat islands separately under its quarantine system.
A spokesman for British Airways’ owner IAG said: “It was evident back in July that islands should be treated separately. The Government is being too slow in making obvious decisions.
“For most families summer is now over and the damage to the industry and the economy is done. On testing, we need to get on with it. We are way behind other countries on what has to be a more nuanced approach.”
Shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon also criticised the government’s decisions over the travel quarantine.
He said: “The government’s response to the Covid-19 crisis has been nothing short of chaotic. At almost every turn, it lacked a clear strategy and this failure has been acutely felt in aviation.
“For months, even when the virus was at its peak, millions of passengers were coming from all over the world without any restrictions placed upon them at all. By the time restrictions were introduced, we were one of only a handful of countries in the world who up to that point had failed to take action in bringing restrictions in place.”
Mr McMahon added: “It’s all very well for the Government now to change position and tell people that when travelling they should go with their eyes open. It wasn’t that long ago the Government were defending a very senior member of No. 10 for driving for an eye test, let alone going with eyes full open.”
Grant Shapps responded: “This is not a virus that any of us control beyond the way in which we all behave individually and the extent to which we all have contact that we perhaps shouldn’t be having.
“It’s very easy to come to the despatch box and be a sort of professor of hindsight and sort of say, ‘well you should have done this and you shouldn’t have done that’.”
Peter Stubley7 September 2020 17:15
Shapps says enforcement of travel quarantine ‘stepping up’
Grant Shapps warned that anyone who breaks quarantine after arriving in the UK is committing a criminal offence.
He added: “If you don’t quarantine for 14 days and you take this virus and you spread it around, you are endangering the people that you love and others that you’ve never even met – and you can get a criminal record for it.
“We will be stepping up enforcement on it, in particular I know that phone calls are made to one in five people, my wife actually, separately, got a phone call, text messages will be being sent and people should be aware that enforcement will increasingly stepped up.”
He later added: “We absolutely will be stepping up measures and I’m working with the Home Secretary and others to secure that, and I again will say more about it very soon.”
Peter Stubley7 September 2020 16:59
UK infection rate passes travel quarantine level
The seven-day rate of new cases of Covid-19 in the UK has risen above 20 cases per 100,000 people, according to Press Association.
In the seven days to 7 September the rate stood at 21.3 cases per 100,000, up from 13.9 in the previous week (the seven days to August 31).
A rate of 20 cases per 100,000 or above, if reported in other countries, is the level at which the government considers imposing quarantine conditions on people travelling to the UK.
Nearly 6,000 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 have been reported in the UK in the 48 hours to 9am on Monday, according to the latest figures from the Department of Health and Social Care.
Peter Stubley7 September 2020 16:51
Shorter quarantine being considered, says Shapps
Grant Shapps’ statement to MPs also mentioned two other issues – regional quarantines, and shortening the 14-day quarantine by combining it with testing.
He said the data showing infections within countries is currently “too patchy” to have quarantine arrangements for separate regions.
Mr Shapps told the Commons: “In many cases, the international data is still simply too patchy and, in all cases, there is next to nothing to prevent people from moving around within a country’s border.”
The transport secretary added: “We are working actively on the practicalities of using testing to release people from quarantine earlier than 14 days.
“For the reasons described, this could not be a pure test-on-arrival option, it would not work, but my officials are working with health experts with the aim of cutting the quarantine period without adding to infection risk or infringing our overall NHS test capacity – which also now needs to cater to schools going back and universities returning.
“The islands policy itself becomes actively immediately and I will, of course, update the House on quarantine testing in the coming weeks.”
Peter Stubley7 September 2020 16:48
Hereditary peer elections delayed until 2021
By-elections to replace hereditary members of the House of Lords have been delayed until the start of 2021.
Peers agreed it would be “nonsensical” to restart them before next year, as the coronavirus pandemic made hustings and in-person voting more difficult.
There are 92 hereditary places reserved in the Lords following reforms in 1999.
Tory Lord Cormack backed the move but said it was “disgraceful” so few peers were allowed to physically sit in the chamber due to the current social distancing rules.
“To deprive members of the Lords from the opportunity of participating properly in debate is a disgrace.
“We have to have a viable chamber that can hold the government to account,” he said.
Peter Stubley7 September 2020 16:35
UK reports 2,948 new cases
A further 2,948 confirmed cases of Covid-19 have been reported in the government’s daily figures for the UK today.
This is down slightly from 2,988 on Sunday, which was the highest since 22 May and prompted concern that the government was losing control of the crisis.
Peter Stubley7 September 2020 16:13
Island travel corridors to replace country-wide quarantines
Here’s our developing story on the new ‘island travel corridors’ policy announced by transport minister Grant Shapps.
Peter Stubley7 September 2020 16:03
Seven Greek islands added to England’s travel quarantine
Travellers arriving in England from seven Greek islands will need to self-isolate for 14 days from 4am on Wednesday, Grant Shapps said.
The islands affected are: Lesvos, Tinos, Serifos, Mykonos, Crete, Santorini and Zakynthos.
Peter Stubley7 September 2020 15:58
Breaking: New island quarantine policy confirmed
Transport minister Grant Shapps has announced that the government’s quarantine policy can now focus on specific islands – instead of the previous blanket quarantine system.
He said: “I can today announce a new islands policy.
“For the first time we have the data and the capacity to add and remove specific islands from quarantine while still providing maximum protection to the UK public.”
Peter Stubley7 September 2020 15:48