Minister defends hotel quarantine scheme delay

The party’s defense comes as Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds called for an urgent update over the ‘unacceptable delays’ to the quarantine scheme

A Conservative minister has defended the government’s decision to extend the start of the hotel quarantine scheme to 15 February, despite first being announced on 27 January. 

Speaking to Sky News, James Cleverly said the delay was due to needing more “time to prepare”, adding that “hindsight is a wonderful thing”.

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His defense comes after the Labour Party “demanded answers” over the delay of the scheme. 

While the government will reportedly foot the bill for the £55m scheme, which will see people arriving in the UK from 32 “red list” countries be quarantined in hotels, Labour argued that alongside the delay, a commitment to set out further details on the measures was “yet to materialise”.

In the letter to Priti Patel, Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds called for an urgent update over the “unacceptable delays” to the quarantine scheme. 

He said: “The UK is in a race against time to secure our borders against emerging strains of the virus. Yet not only are there no hotel quarantine arrangements in place, the plans for how they will work have not even been announced.

“The current position is that 21,000 people are entering the country daily. The only protection is an ineffective self-quarantine system, which has already allowed the South African strain of the virus to enter the country.”

He added: “It is deeply worrying to hear reports from major hotel chains that concrete discussions are still not underway. While no confirmation has been given on how any measures will be enforced, as there appears to be no extra capacity for police forces to take on additional work.”

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