Rishi Sunak may bring in new Covid travel restrictions amid concern over soaring cases in China, a news report has claimed. If implemented, this will be the first time that the travel rules will be brought in since February.
According to the Telegraph, on Thursday, ministers stated that moving on to adopting stricter rules for those arriving from China was “under review”.
Ben Wallace, Defence Secretary said: “The Government is looking at that, it’s under review, we noticed obviously what the United States has done and India and I think Italy has looked at it.
“We keep under review all the time, obviously, health threats to the United Kingdom, wherever they may be.
“I think the Department of Transport will take medical advice, talk to the Department of Health and they’ll come to some decisions depending on what we see coming out of China, but at the moment it’s under review.”
Other countries like the US, Japan, India, and Italy have already resorted to the preventive measure and announced tests for travellers from China after a dramatic rise in infections in the country in recent days.
The Telegraph reported that Steve Barclay, the Health Secretary, met Sir Chris Whitty, England’s Chief Medical Officer, and Jenny Harries, the chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), to discuss whether to reimpose the first Covid restrictions since all rules were scrapped last winter.
It stated that the officials have so far decided not to announce any new restrictions.
A similar stand has been taken by the European Union – with more than a million people in Britain already infected and no signs yet of a new variant that could get around UK vaccine protections.
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However, the broadsheet claimed that “the return of Covid travel measures has not been ruled out, with ministers stressing that the situation could change.”
The report stated that on Thursday, two former health ministers called on the Government to reintroduce Covid tests for travellers from China to protect the overstretched NHS and detect any new variants that could threaten vaccinated Britons.
On Wednesday a spokesperson said the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) will continue to closely monitor the prevalence and spread of harmful variants and keep available international data under review.
Earlier on Wednesday, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s spokesperson said the Government will continue to monitor Covid cases across the UK.
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He said: “We will continue to ensure that we have the necessary surveillance in place.”
But when asked specifically about restrictions on those coming from China, he said: “That’s not something we are looking at.”
Steve Brine, the chairman of the Commons health committee who was a health minister until 2019, told The Telegraph: “China is such a secretive society – we know their data is withheld and unreliable.
“We have every right to over not underreact. Public confidence is such that we know the lesson of two years ago was that time is of the essence.
“The public are a bit bemused that we are in this place, seemingly not having learned.
“Now, let’s just say that lots and lots of Chinese nationals want to come and visit this country with a poor vaccine, they end up getting sick.
“The NHS has frankly got enough on its plate right now without any emergency admissions, which it would of course have to deal with.”