he full closure of the UK’s borders has been “considered” by the government amid concerns about new COVID variants being imported from abroad, a minister has revealed.
This week, the government closed all UK travel corridors – which had allowed arrivals from some countries to avoid having to quarantine – until at least 15 February.
People coming to the UK from abroad also now have to show proof of a negative COVID test from up to 72 hours before their journey.
But Prime Minister Boris Johnson is reportedly under pressure from some members of his cabinet to go further and close Britain’s borders completely to foreigners.
Environment Secretary George Eustice told Sky News that “everything is always kept under review” when asked if a full border shutdown could be introduced.
“We always keep things under review and it’s been considered,” he said.
“There is concern at the moment at number of mutant strains that there are – different strains of this coronavirus are cropping up in other countries.
“There are concerns that there is a risk that one day there will be a strain that might be able to evade the vaccine.
“That’s why last week the prime minister toughened up the current restrictions.
“We require a test before people travel and then they must quarantine while they’re here.
“There are now no exemptions from that policy, so we’ve already toughened it up – we think that’s the right approach for now but, obviously, everything is always kept under review.”
The prime minister was this week accused of having “overruled” Home Secretary Priti Patel at the start of the pandemic last March by keeping the UK’s borders open to foreign travellers.
According to The Daily Telegraph, some senior cabinet ministers are now once again pushing to close Britain’s borders and copy the tough travel measures in place in countries such as Australia and New Zealand.
Asked if he was among those wanting to see the UK’s borders closed, Mr Eustice told Sky News: “Personally I wouldn’t like to see all borders closed.
“I’d like us to get past this pandemic and get the vaccine rolled out and be able to start opening things again rather than closing things.
“But we can’t rule anything out but, for now, the restrictions we have in place – with that requirement for quarantine and the requirement for a pre-travel test – we think that is sufficient and the right and appropriate measure for now.”
At a Downing Street briefing on Thursday, Ms Patel said the UK currently had “stringent measures” at borders “for a very good reason”.
“We want to protect the health of members of the public and we want to make sure we can deliver and safeguard this world-leading vaccine roll-out,” she said.