The UK needs a robust border policy, but right now we can’t see if it is working

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Sumary of The UK needs a robust border policy, but right now we can’t see if it is working:

  • It was not until February this year that the government introduced mandatory hotel quarantine – some 11 months after coronavirus was first recorded the UK – despite it being used in countries such as New Zealand from the off..
  • Even now with stricter requirements for arrivals in place, critics say the current border policy is seriously lacking..
  • While that figure is still significantly lower than pre-pandemic levels, the risks that new variants pose to the success of the vaccine programme mean the pressure is on to deliver a border policy that works..
  • However, it is incredibly challenging to scrutinise how well the system is delivering, because data on movement at the border is so opaque..
  • The government did reveal that the number of issued visitor visas – the standard visa used for tourists to holiday in the UK – was down 78% in January and March, compared with 2020, but the Home Office refused to provide the data behind the drop, despite requests from the Guardian, rendering the statistic useless..
  • There were 631,500 air passenger arrivals in the month of January, according to the most recently available official statistics..
  • Citing Border Force staff, the Times said that 40% of current arrivals were tourists, which would equate to 252,000 people or 8,000 a day..
  • However, about 200,000 of the arrivals were British nationals and looking at a breakdown of daily arrivals, the total number of non-British nationals arriving each day, for all reasons, rarely exceeds 8,000..
  • Border Force staff told the Guardian that 8,000 tourists a day was plausible, although the reason for entry is no longer recorded by border staff since landing cards were scrapped..
  • The number of visitor visas issued is recorded centrally, but these are also used for some business activities, medical reasons such as private healthcare and academic research, as well as for tourism..
  • The International Passenger Survey does record the reason for entry, but it will be months before the findings for the lockdown period are published..
  • The Times claims also highlight the woeful lack of information from the Home Office on Border Force enforcement of the international travel regulations, with no data published since September..
  • The National Police Chief Council provides a monthly update on the number of fixed penalty notices issued by police for all Covid regulations breaches – including those covering international travel..
  • But much of the responsibility for enforcing the health measures at the border – checking passenger locator forms, chasing up self-isolation, ensuring red-list arrivals enter hotel quarantine – lies with Border Force within the Home Office..
  • All passengers entering the UK must provide proof of a negative Covid test taken no more than three days before departure, regardless of where they came from..
  • They must complete a passenger locator form with an address for their 10-day quarantine on arrival, with fines for those who fail to comply…

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