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The Shadow transport secretary, Jim McMahon, has called on ministers to release the full details of the government’s coronavirus quarantine policy in order to reassure travellers they aren’t “simply making it up as they go along”.
The demand comes after Transport Secretary Grant Shapps admitted the rules were “confusing” for holidaymakers after Scotland and Wales chose to impose restrictions on those returning from Portugal and parts of Greece, while England and Northern Ireland did not.
On Thursday, Welsh health secretary Vaughn Gething said the new rules for arrivals from mainland Portugal and six Greek islands followed “very clear advice” from the Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC), which provides risk assessments for foreign countries.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also introduced similar restrictions on Portugal, having already added Greece to the Scottish quarantine list earlier in the week.
Mr Shapps, who is expected to update MPs on the policy in a Commons statement later this afternoon, had accused Scotland of “jumping the gun” by introducing the Greek quarantine measures, and suggested Mr Gethins had based his decision on incorrect information because he “was at a different meeting”.
But Labour will use the debate to demand an urgent review into the policy, as well as the release of the full Joint Biosecurity Centre data which was provided to Mr Shapps.
Speaking to PoliticsHome, Mr McMahon said: “We’re still yet to see the scientific evidence for the Government’s decision making.
“People are rightly confused about the process, and how the UK Government came to a different decision from Scotland and Wales and give confidence they aren’t simply making it up as they go along.”
The Labour shadow minister also called on the government to examine options for a “robust” testing programme in airports in an effort to reduce the two-week self-isolation period.
“After the mess we’ve seen it is vital that the government undertakes a review into quarantine policy, to report as soon as possible,” he added.
“It should include outlining options for a robust testing regime in airports, and related follow up tests, that could help to safely minimise the need for 14-day quarantine.”
The comments come after Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he hoped to introduce testing for those arriving in the UK “as soon as it is practical” following warnings from the UK’s 20 largest airports that the blanket quarantine policy was causing “irreperable damage” to the industry.
Mr Hancock told LBC on Monday that ministers were looking at the possibility of introducing tests at the eight day mark, with those testing negative allowed to stop self-isolating.
He added: “We are working to try to find a way to allow for the quarantine to be reduced, but done in a way that also keeps people safe.”
Responding to the comments, a government spokesperson said: “We are taking clear and decisive action to slow the spread of the virus and save lives.
“We keep the data for all countries and territories under constant review, and if the public health risk of people returning from a particular country without self-isolating becomes too high we will not hestitate to remove countries from the travel corridors exemptions list.
They added: “Work is ongoing with clinicians, the devolved administrations and the travel industry to consider if and how testing could be used in the future to reduce the self-isolation period.
“Any potential change to the testing for arrivals would need to be robust in minimising the chance that positive cases are missed.”