U.K. Steps Up Quarantine Enforcement With 4,200 Police Referrals

U.K. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said about 4,200 people have been referred to the police over potential coronavirus quarantine breaches, as he responded to criticism that enforcement has been too lax.

The transport secretary was asked on TalkRadio on Friday about the ease with which people can ignore requirements to self-isolate for 14 days following their return from abroad, including by falsely claiming they had visited a countrydeemed safe by the U.K. government.

“If people think they’re doing that risk-free, they’re not,” Shapps said. “It’s not just the fine for not quarantining, you can actually get a criminal record,” he said adding there’s also the “social risk” of passing coronavirus on.

Shapps spoke a day after the U.K. removed Switzerland, Jamaica and the Czech Republic from its quarantine exemption list, meaning returning travelers will need toself-isolate. The U.K.’s top two holiday destinations — Spain and France — have also been designated as quarantine countries in recent weeks.

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The transport secretary has drawn criticism for the speed at which new restrictions are brought in, leaving holidaymakers little time to return in order to avoid having to quarantine. Airlines, airports and travel companies have said he’s killing demand in their industry and have called for a program of virus testing at airports to replace quarantine rules.

But Shapps told the BBC on Friday that airport testing isn’t a “silver bullet” because it won’t catch many asymptomatic Covid-19 cases, and defended the speed with which the government has been forced to act when reviewing infection data from other countries.

“You have to act once these things happen, because we’ve worked very hard to get to a situation of having reasonably low levels at home,” he said. He warned British holidaymakers “to go away with your eyes open” given they may be required to self-isolate on their return.

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