NEWS
25/04/2020 17:03 BST | Updated 25/04/2020 17:04 BST

UK Border Force Busts Criminals Smuggling £1m Of Cocaine In Face Mask Boxes, Home Secretary Reveals

During today's daily coronavirus briefing, Priti Patel said overall crime has decreased during lockdown but warned criminals exploiting situation that law enforcement is “onto you”.

PA Video - PA Images via Getty Images
Screen grab of Home Secretary Priti Patel during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (COVID-19). (Photo by PA Video/PA Images via Getty Images)

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

Criminals attempting to smuggle £1million worth of cocaine into the UK in face masks have been stopped, the home secretary revealed at today’s government press briefing.

Priti Patel said that last week the Border Force discovered £1million worth of cocaine set to be smuggled into the UK through the channel tunnel hidden in boxes of face masks.

She said that overall crime has decreased during lockdown but warned criminals that law enforcement is “onto you”.

Patel told the briefing that law enforcement agencies were “adapting” during the outbreak, as criminals continued to “capitalise on this horrendous crisis”.

The home secretary added there had been a fall in overall crime during the outbreak, with “car crime, burglary, shoplifting” lower than the same period last year.

Addressing criminals, she said: “Today I have a message for them. Our world-class law enforcement is also adapting, and they are on to you, and their efforts are paying off.”

“Our ‘You Are Not Alone’ campaign to signpost the help available and to make it clear to victims that they can still leave home, has made an incredible impact – with 98 million online impressions,” she told the briefing.

“I refuse to ignore the amplified risk for the victims of hidden crime, and I along with Lynne (Owens – director general of the National Crime Agency), along with our entire law enforcement agencies, refuse to allow criminals to take advantage of these unprecedented times.”

PA Video - PA Images via Getty Images
Screen grab of (left to right) National Medical Director at NHS England Stephen Powis, Home Secretary Priti Patel and Lynne Owens, Director General of the National Crime Agency during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (COVID-19). (Photo by PA Video/PA Images via Getty Images)

The home secretary described the coronavirus death toll in UK hospitals passing 20,000 as a “deeply tragic and moving moment” and warned that “we are not out of the woods yet”.

Patel said the entire government was working towards returning the country to normal, but said its five tests must be met before the lockdown can be lifted.

She said: “We must be sure we can continue to protect the NHS, that there is a sustained and consistent fall in the daily rates of death, that the data shows the rate of infection decreases, that the operational challenges are met.

“And of course that there is no risk of a second peak of infections.

“Until then, we all have a role to play in pulling our country out of this crisis.”

She added: “So I urge you all to stay strong and embrace that spirit of national unity by continuing to follow the advice – to stay home, protect the NHS and save lives”.

Asked if the government could give any details of how to get the UK out of lockdown, Patel said officials were working “night and day” to develop an exit strategy.

“This is not a binary choice of just removing restrictions in terms of moving back to how things were,” she said.

The home secretar continued: “The fact of the matter is we want to prevent a second wave of this horrendous virus, and to do that we have to make sure that we continue with the measures that are in place.

“But also to move to any form of changes; whether it is schools, whether it is business, whether its re-starting aspects of society, we need to make sure we have the right kind of preventative measures in place to prevent a second wave of that virus.”