The health secretary has insisted the government is “on track” to implement stricter border controls from next Monday, despite confirmation earlier in the day that no contracts to operate quarantine hotels have yet been signed.

Speaking at a daily coronavirus briefing on Monday evening, Matt Hancock said the relatively low numbers of the South African Covid-19 variant detected in the UK showed the measures introduced to date had been effective.

But he declined to indicate a possible timeline for the lifting of restrictions after being asked whether measures could be in place for months or even years in order to keep the spread of variants under control.


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Saying the rollout of the quarantine hotel strategy and stricter enforcement was “on track, particularly from countries of concern”, Hancock added: “Of course we want to lift these measures as soon as is safely possible, but for now the precautionary principle is the best one.”

When asked if advice from government officials that it was too early to book an overseas holiday this summer also extended to domestic breaks, deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam said it was “too early to say”.

Saying that the easing of restrictions was reliant on the behaviour of the virus, the rollout of the vaccination programme and adherence to existing rules, he added: “The more elaborate your plans for summer holidays in terms of crossing borders, in terms of household mixing, the more you are stepping into making guesses about the unknown at this point so I’m afraid I can’t give a proper answer to this point.”

MoreCalls grow for tighter restrictions on UK arrivals

Hotels and government ‘wrangle’ over quarantine contracts