The government is under increasing political pressure to announce details of its hotel quarantine plans, which were first revealed last month.
At a briefing on Wednesday evening, Boris Johnson said health secretary Matt Hancock would reveal the details today (February 4) but Radio 4’s Today programme reported this morning that Number 10 said “he’d misspoken”.
The plan will impose quarantine on arrivals from Covid-19 hotspots in a bid to clamp down on new variants from countries such as South Africa and Brazil.
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi told the Today programme that Hancock would present the operational plan “in the next few days” and home secretary Priti Patel said work is under way on the details, which “will be rolled out in due course”.
The BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg said she understood there would be more meetings about the plans in Whitehall on Thursday (February 4) – but an announcement may not be made until next week, with the implementation of the plan taking even longer.
On Thursday afternoon, Hancock insisted there was not a delay, and said work was ongoing “to make sure that the border is always as secure as it needs to be”.
He added that the government “will be bringing forward further measures”, but again did not confirm when that might be.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer – who wants all arrivals to be quarantined – told the BBC he was “really worried about the chaos and confusion on the government’s borders policy”.
“We’re in a race now – virus against vaccination. Let’s secure our borders,” he said.
Labour’s shadow health minister, Jonathan Ashworth, also questioned why it was taking so long to bring in quarantine hotels.
Speaking to LBC’s Iain Dale, he praised the vaccine deployment but on the issue of hotels, he asked: “Why the delay, why can’t we get on with it now?”
The chief executive of the Best Western hotel chain told the Today programme that he had had no direct contact from the government about the scheme other than very broad information about timings and who is handling the scheme.
Rob Paterson said he needed to know how to prepare for cleaning and security protocols and what numbers to expect.
Paul Charles, chief executive of The PC Agency, tweeted: “The #CEO of @BestWesternGB confirmed on @BBCr4today that @pritipatel hotel quarantine policy is in disarray. Insurance and security staff concerns are among the problems. Better to invest in testing travellers than pursue this already-discredited policy.”
Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon plans to introduce hotel quarantine for all direct arrivals to Scotland, saying that Covid had been “re-seeded from overseas travel” after initially being suppressed last year.
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