Covid infections from abroad lower than one in 1,000 in December, says Grant Shapps

The transport secretary has revealed less than one in 1,000 of the Covid infections recorded in England during December were brought in from abroad.

Grant Shapps told BBC’s Today show that the figures for last month showed “less than one-10th of one per cent of all infections are with people who travelled”.

He said: “Now, they may have been infected here in any case. In many cases they will have been in countries with lower levels of coronavirus than we’ve had here.

“In terms of proportion of the total, it’s small.”

The transport secretary also said that the UK Border Force had checked three million passenger locator forms – “about a quarter of everybody who’s come in”.

Every traveller arriving in the UK must complete one of these forms, which requires personal details including the location where they plan to quarantine – which is required from almost all arrivals.

Mr Shapps added that Public Health England had checked up on “over a third of a million people” to ensure they were self-isolating in accordance with quarantine rules – which currently require arrivals from almost all nations to self-isolate for 10 days.

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Based on Mr Shapps’s figures, The Independent calculates that under 3 per cent of arrivals to England since quarantine was introduced in June 2020 have been checked upon by health officials.

The revelations have led travel industry figures to renew their call for an end to the quarantine system for arrivals to the UK.

Paul Charles, chief executive of the travel consultancy The PC Agency, said: “The figures speak for themselves.

“International travel is bringing in hardly any cases from overseas and Border Force are checking only a minority of passengers for quarantine compliance.

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“Yet recovery in the travel sector is being choked off by the wrong measures. Travel bans and quarantines aren’t the answer.

“Only world-class, regular testing is the solution to bringing down infections and enabling economic progress at the same time.”

The transport secretary also told the BBC programme that UK’s new test-before-travel policy had been delayed for three days “for practical purposes”.

Mr Shapps said:“It was simply a matter of practicality. There are over 200 countries and territories in the world. They all are using different types of coronavirus test.

“We needed to check them all to be able to inform people which ones will be adequate to meet our very exacting standards.

“We didn’t want to end up with a crisis, with Brits stranded abroad unable to come home.”

The measures will now take effect for travellers arriving after 4am on Monday 18 January.

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