The Home Secretary of the United Kingdom has admitted that the country should have shut its borders in March 2020 in order to keep out the novel Coronavirus. The admission was made public in a leaked recording of a private Zoom call with a political group called the Conservative Friends of India, during which Home Secretary Priti Patel took questions from supporters.
“On ‘should we have closed our borders earlier’ the answer is yes,” Patel is heard saying during the leaked snippet of the call first reported by Guido Fawkes. “I was an advocate of closing them last March,” the Home Secretary continued.
Other island nations, most notably Australia, New Zealand and Taiwan, have had great success in controlling or almost entirely eliminating COVID-19 by imposing tough border restrictions early in the outbreak when cases were still largely confined in mainland China.
Priti Patel has never denied media speculation that she fought for stricter border measures to contain the pandemic but has also never publicly disagreed with the approach taken by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to keep the borders open.
Unlike many other countries, the United Kingdom didn’t initially impose any travel restrictions on travellers from any other country even as much of the world closed its doors to China or when cases started to surge in Europe and the United States.
In June, Johnson finally acquiesced to his Home Secretary’s demands for tougher border restrictions by requiring all international travellers arriving in the UK to self-isolate for 14-days. A month later, the UK introduced ‘travel corridors’ for travellers from lower-risk countries who were exempted from self-isolation rules.
In contrast to Australia or New Zealand, quarantine rules have largely gone unenforced and were even cut to 10-days in an attempt to increase compliance. Travellers are also able to cut the self-isolation period even further by taking a COVID-19 on day five of quarantine.
In recent weeks, however, Johnson has taken a tougher stance on international travel, banning people in England from going abroad for leisure and suspending all travel corridors. Flights from South Africa and Brazil, as well as much of South America, have also been banned in an attempt to prevent the importation of new variants.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has also introduced new pre-departure testing rules which are designed to further prevent the importation of the virus from travellers.
According to government data, over 91,000 people in the UK have now died after testing positive for COVID-19. The country currently has the worst death rate in the whole of Europe.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.