Fury as documents show Boris IGNORED urgent SAGE plea to shut UK borders weeks ago
Boris Johnson announces new UK border restrictions
Ministers are in a race against time to crack down on the mutant strain before it becomes endemic across the country. There are already 105 confirmed cases in the UK, and 11 are not linked to international travel sparking concern in Westminster as to how they contracted the virus.
Mass door-to-door testing of 80,000 people in communities where the variant has been found will take place in a bid to stop the transmission of the variant in its tracks.
Claims have now emerged the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) warned Mr Johnson on January 21 of the need to introduce mandatory quarantine in order to stop the South African variant being imported into the UK.
They warned “geographically targeted travel bans” would not be enough to stop the arrival of the strain, according to The Times.
Mr Johnson did not act until a week later when he announced the Government was introducing hotel quarantine for those arriving in the UK for 30 “high-risk” countries.
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The policy is still yet to be put into place.
Minutes from when Sage met state: “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.
“Reactive, geographically targeted travel bans cannot be relied upon to stop importation of new variants due to the lag between the emergence and identification of variants of concern, as well as the potential for indirect travel via a third country.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Home Secretary Priti Patel are both thought to have urged the Prime Minister to introduce quarantine for all arrivals last week.
The South African variant is more contagious than the original and there are fears coronavirus vaccines are less effective against the strain.
However, Mr Johnson overruled the pair to opt for the targeted approach favoured by other Cabinet Ministers.
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This morning Universities Minister Michelle Donelan rejected accusations the Government should have closed the borders to stop new variants reaching the UK.
She also disputed the claim scientists had warned the Government’s current policy was ineffective.
“The Sage advice actually said that it would be probably ineffective to close the borders, which was the same advice that we got at the time from the World Health Organisation,” she said.
“We can obviously look back in hindsight with the information now but we didn’t have that information at the time.
“We always based our decisions on the best scientific and medical advice that we could get in this country.”
Professor Calum Semple, a member of Sage, has also sought to distance himself from claims Sage had urged the UK to shut its borders completely.
“The role of us as advisers is to give the science and then the politicians have to make the incredibly difficult decisions,” he said.
“You can’t close borders altogether when you have got a country that is dependent on imports for food and other essential processes.
“It is just not possible.”
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