Up To 20,000 People Are Arriving Into The UK Every Day, Says Grant Shapps

The transport secretary said the number of people coming from the 33 "red list" countries was "less than 1,000 people a day".

Between 16,000 and 20,000 people are still arriving into the UK from overseas every day, transport secretary Grant Shapps has said.

The minister revealed the figure on Sky News when discussing possible capacity issues for the hotel quarantine set to come in on Monday.

Regarding suggestions that up to 1,500 people a day could still be coming to the UK from the government’s “red list” of Covid hotspot countries, the minister said on Wednesday morning that he’d seen the numbers but didn’t think they were correct.

He said: “If you think about the very small number of people who are travelling at the moment, travel is 95% down on where it was this time last year.

“And of the remaining people who travel, once you strip out the lorry drivers who are bringing our medicines and foods here, frontier workers, actually, the number of people travelling overall is very low and then beyond that, we’re only talking about another subsection of people who are travelling here from those red list countries where there are no direct flights, in any case.”

As Shapps explained, the 16,000 to 20,000 figure isn’t just holidaymakers returning home or international arrivals entering through the nation’s airports – it also includes includes hauliers, border staff and critical workers. Boris Johnson later said some 5,000 of the 20,000 arrivals were bringing in “vital things” such as medicine and food.

Shapps also said that fewer than 1,000 people a day were returning from the 33 countries that will require a hotel quarantine as there are no direct flights.

“It comes to less than 1,000 a day,” he said.

“Next week, when people will have to pay £1,750 to stay in a hotel, we’ll find the numbers are pretty small. But we can increase hotel numbers very, very quickly, because we have those arrangements in place.”

Pressed on the number of hotel rooms actually available, Shapps said there were “5,000 immediately available”, describing them as “government managed facilities.”

He added: “Bear in mind these are from countries where there are no direct flights at all, the majority of Brits will have already returned from those locations, and very, very few people are travelling at all at this stage.”

Without providing specific details on the way in which the government would increase the number of hotel rooms available, Shapps said: “We can just increase those numbers very quickly, in a day or so, because we’ve got those agreements in place.”

International travel from the UK is illegal for most people. Some workers in roles deemed critical by the government are exempt from the ban, and will continue to avoid some or all quarantine rules mandating a Covid-19 test, period of self-isolation and completion of a passenger locator form – though this will not apply to travellers arriving from the “red list”.

Exempt workers include:

  • Aerospace engineers
  • Aircraft pilots and crew
  • BBC broadcasting transmission network and services
  • Border security duties – UK officials and contractors
  • Bus and coach drivers
  • Channel Tunnel system workers
  • Civil aviation inspector
  • Clinical trials or studies
  • Crown servants or government contractors
  • Data infrastructure maintenance
  • Defence personnel, visiting forces and government contractors
  • Diplomatic missions, international organisations and conferences
  • Downstream oil facility workers
  • Drivers of goods vehicles
  • Electronic communications networks
  • Elite sportspersons – international
  • Elite sportspersons – domestic
  • New domestic elite sportspersons
  • Environment Agency relating to flood and coastal erosion risk management
  • Eurostar International workers
  • Eurotunnel workers
  • Government contractors – the conduct of negotiations
  • High-speed rail workers
  • International prison escorts
  • IT and telecoms workers
  • Medical evacuation
  • Medical treatment
  • Network Rail workers
  • Nuclear personnel
  • Nuclear emergency responder
  • Offshore oil and gas workers
  • OPCW and IAEA inspectors
  • Postal workers
  • Quality assurance inspectors for human and veterinary medicines
  • Regular work abroad
  • Regular work in the UK, living abroad
  • Representatives of a foreign country or territory or British overseas territories
  • Seamen and masters and inspectors and surveyors of ships
  • Seasonal agricultural workers
  • Specialist technical workers - sub-sea telecommunications infrastructure
  • Specialist technical workers - goods and services
  • Specialist technical workers – waste
  • Specialist technical workers – power infrastructure
  • Specialist technical workers – space infrastructure
  • Transiting airside through the UK
  • Transporting human cells or blood
  • Water supplies and sewerage services workers

Shapps also defended the announcement that people who try to conceal journeys to high-risk countries could face 10 year prison sentences, telling Sky News the punishment would be “appropriate”.

Matt Hancock announced a requirement for UK residents returning to England from 33 “red list” countries to pay £1,750 to quarantine for 10 days in government-designated hotels on Tuesday, and said those caught lying could face either imprisonment or a £10,000 fine.

It comes amid continuing concerns over home-grown coronavirus strains as scientists advising the government added one detected in Bristol to its “variant of concern” list.

Hancock also confirmed a new “enhanced testing” regime for all international travellers, with two tests required during the quarantine process from Monday.

Those who fail to take a test face a £1,000 fine, followed by a £2,000 penalty and an extension to their quarantine period, to 14 days, if they miss the second test.

Hancock indicated the quarantine measures might be in place until the autumn if vaccine booster jabs are needed in response to coronavirus variants.

He told the Commons that 16 hotels have been contracted to provide 4,600 rooms for the quarantine programme, which begins on Monday, February 15.

The issue arose on Tuesday in parliament, with Labour leader Keir Starmer accusing Boris Johnson of appearing to “change policy pretty well every day” on decisions over the border, adding that Oxford University research suggests the country lags behind others when it comes to such restrictions.

He asked: “Fifty days after we first discovered the South African variant, how does the prime minister explain that?”

Johnson replied: “There are some countries in Europe which don’t even have a hotel quarantine scheme such as the one we’re putting in on Monday.

“We have amongst the toughest border regimes anywhere in the world.

“People should understand that on a normal day at this time of year you could expect about 250,000 to be arriving in this country. We’ve got it down to about 20,000 – 5,000 of them who are involved in bringing in vital things into this country, such as medicines and food.

“Unless he actually wants to cut this country off from the rest of the world – which I think last week he said he didn’t want to do, unless of course he’s changed his mind again – I think this policy is measured, proportionate, it’s getting tougher from Monday and I hope he supports it.”


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