OPINION

Say hasta la vista to safe hols as border farce threatens NHS vaccine success

Posted On 12 Apr 2021 at 12:29 am

The effectiveness of the ongoing national vaccination programme is a tribute to the NHS and its current army of volunteers.

The success of the programme is, however, being jeopardised by inadequate and chaotic border controls.

Since the hotel and home quarantining system was introduced on Monday 15 February, almost 800,000 people have entered the UK from overseas.

That figure is staggering enough in itself as international travel is meant to be for “essential purposes” only.

What we then discover, though, according to the Border Force union, the ISU, is that of these 800,000 travellers, only 650,000 have been accounted for.

This means that 150,000 are unaccounted for and the government has no idea where they have gone or whether they may have come from “red list” countries and would need to be quarantined in a hotel.

The Home Office was apparently asked for comment and said that Public Health England (PHE) was responsible in the shape of the Isolation Assurance Service.

PHE, however, reminded the Home Office that this unit was shut down last month!

All this could be the subject of a modern Carry On film were it not so serious. If the government are relying on the vaccination programme to shield us from the consequences of this almost criminal incompetence you only have to look at South America for the answer to that.

Chile has one of the most extensive vaccinations programmes in the world and, in percentage terms, has covered more of its population that the UK.

They have, however, just had to close their borders and tighten already strict lockdown rules for the whole of April due to a serious upsurge in covid cases – in other words, vaccination doesn’t guarantee immunity.

This is partly due to Chile’s proximity to Brazil which has a completely out-of-control covid situation with new variants being discovered almost every week.

In the UK we have the Brazilian, South African and Nigerian variants which are causing concern and these strains would have come from international travellers.

We also, of course, have our own variants – the Kent and Liverpool ones – which have probably been exported to other countries, particularly in Europe, by international travel.

I really hope I am wrong about this and worrying unnecessarily but the current state of affairs in terms of our quarantine system for international travellers can only be described as a complete omnishambles.

Less importantly for our health but very significant for the travel industry, it also puts at serious risk any hopes we might have of foreign holidays this year.

Peter Atkinson is a nurse and Labour councillor for North Portslade on Brighton and Hove City Council.

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