POLITICS
22/05/2020 15:30 BST | Updated 22/05/2020 16:28 BST

Maybe People From Yorkshire Should Be Quarantined, MPs Suggest

David Davis says people people from the north of England "more risky" to London than some international visitors.

Coronavirus has changed everything. Make sense of it all with the Waugh Zone, our evening politics briefing. Sign up now. 

People from Yorkshire pose a bigger coronavirus risk to Londoners than most foreign visitors, a former Conservative cabinet minister has said.

Under plans due to be unveiled by home secretary Priti Patel on Friday, international travellers could face spot checks and £1,000 fines if they fail to self-isolate for 14 days after arriving in the UK.

But David Davis, a former Brexit secretary, said it made more sense to quarantine people from the north of England, where the spread of the infection is believed to be higher than in the capital, than from countries with low instances of the disease.

“We are going to say to Greeks coming here: ‘You are going to [spend] 14 days in quarantine,’ whereas if I come down from Doncaster I go through King’s Cross without a stop,” the MP for Haltemprice and Howden in Yorkshire told BBC Radio 4 this afternoon.

“Where is the science in saying [that] to someone from Athens, which has a very low rate, or any part of Greece, versus someone from Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds or wherever?”

He added: “Let’s imagine a constituent of mine went off on holiday in Greece now [...] and I spent two weeks in Yorkshire, which of us is the more risky when we come to London?”

Greece has had 166 deaths related to coronavirus and just 2,850 confirmed cases.

The number of people who have now died in the UK after testing positive for the virus has risen to 36,393 – an increase of 351 over 24 hours.

Ben Bradshaw, the Labour MP for Exeter, said there was a “stronger case” for isolating arrivals in London from Yorkshire than some other countries.

It came as Downing Street did not rule out allowing London to emerge from the coronavirus lockdown before other parts of the country

The capital is thought to have a lower reproduction rate – or “R rate” – of the virus than some other regions.

A study published by the University of Cambridge last week showed the R number in London could be as low as 0.4 while in the North East and Yorkshire it was 0.8.

The latest latest estimates, published by the government today, suggest the UK-wide R rate has remained at 0.7 to 1.0 for a second week.

Boris Johnson has said driving the R down is key to any further easing of the lockdown measures.

The prime minister’s official spokesperson said today: “As we are able to gather more data and have better surveillance of a rate of infection in different parts of the country then we will be able to lift measures quicker in some parts of the country than in others.

“And equally we will be able to put the brakes on in some parts of the country while not having to do so in other parts.”

Matt Hancock, the health secretary, revealed yesterday that a government antibody surveillance study found 17% of people in the capital may have  recovered from the virus.

But in other parts of the country outside the capital the figure was lower at 5%.