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James Cleverly addresses hotel quarantine criticism and vaccine passports

Foreign Office Minister James Cleverly appeared on today’s Good Morning Britain where he addressed criticism over the delays on hotel quarantining and discussed whether vaccine passports may be introduced.

Speaking to Ben Shephard and Charlotte Hawkins, he was asked what he says to those who say hotel quarantine measures are a case of ‘too little, too late.’

Cleverly answered: “What you have got to remember is that this is part of a package of measures. It is not the only thing that we are doing to protect ourselves at borders. We already insist that people have a negative test result before they fly into the UK… We have tightened up the reasons why people are flying, we have had an insistence that people coming from countries with a high prevalence of Covid self-isolate, and we have already put in place measures whereby people who don’t have a right to fly here can be turned away at the border and fined. The hotel quarantine measure is adding to an existing list of measures that we have out in place to protect ourselves at the borders.”

Asked how many people have been sent back to their country of origin at the border, he said: “I don’t have that figure at my fingertips.”

On the fact that only 332 fixed penalty notices have been issued to those breaking the rules, Cleverly stressed: “Our desire is not to give out lots of fixed penalty notices, our desire is to encourage people to do the right thing… but we do want to tighten up those measures in light of the new variants we are seeing around the world. That is why we gave an initial notice to the hospitality industry last month… that is why more details have come out yesterday to give more specific details to the hospitality industry...and we are giving them notice to prepare their hotels.”

Pressed on why this wasn’t put in place months ago, he said: “I have been dealing with our international friends and partners explaining to them why we are putting travel restrictions in and we have been making calls like that for months. We have a regime of limiting travel for this and when we feel that regime needs enhancing… we put those enhancements in place. What we hope of course,  our preferred option is that people take that personal responsibility and when they fail to do so, we have had to toughen up our measures and that is what we are doing. The main thing is, and the air travel industry will tell you this, there has been a massive, massive reduction in international travel.”

Asked if we would have protected ourselves better if we had put these measures in place last summer during the first wave of the virus, Cleverly replied: “My understanding, and I don’t pretend to be an epidemiological expert… my understanding is that the response to changes to the evolution and mutation of the virus, countries all around the world are having to deal with these new strains, so it is not possible...what we saw was not necessarily driven in the Autumn and over Christmas from imported virus strains...as a non scientist, one of the things I have learnt is that few things are as simple as that, correlation does not equal causation...we have always adapted our policies, guided by the science in a way that we feel best addresses the impact of the virus.”

Clearing up today’s reports that the Government is preparing vaccine passports, despite Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi previously claiming they wouldn’t, he said: “Every country sets its own rules about who it does or doesn’t allow into its country. Other countries around the world may decide that they accept people who have had proof of vaccinations and as British officials always do, we work with our international partners so that we can understand what their travel rules are...so that we can properly inform British travellers.”

He added: “We wouldn’t be able to dictate to other countries, we wouldn’t be able to say to a British citizen, here is your record of vaccination, you can now go anywhere you like… that would have to be a decision made by the hosting countries.”

On whether he can envisage a moment when travellers to the UK will have to prove that they have had the vaccine, he said: “We will see what the situation is in the future. As I say, we will be guided by the science. I am not comfortable,  I don’t think it would be particularly useful for me speculating about how exactly things may well be once vaccinations around the world have been rolled out. What I am proud of is that the UK’s domestic vaccination scheme is world class and that also through things like GAVI and COVAX we are also playing a leading part in making sure some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world are able to get access to the vaccine.”

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