Hotel quarantine came in too late to stop Brazil Covid variant 'patient zero', Business Secretary accepts

Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng Credit: PA

The Business Secretary has said he accepts that the government's hotel quarantine system came in too late to prevent 'patient zero' from entering the UK with a new Brazilian Covid variant.

On Tuesday's Good Morning Britain, Kwasi Kwarteng initially defended the hotel quarantine system.

"We had the system in time for when the person arrived - I think it was on February 12 or 13," he told presenters Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid.

He also said they were able to enter the UK and remain unidentified as they did not fill out their test registration card correctly.

Ms Reid was quick to point out that the hotel quarantine system was implemented on February 15, meaning 'patient zero' was never required to check into government-designated accommodation."SAGE, on January 21, said no intervention, other than the complete preemptive closure of borders or the mandatory quarantine of all visitors on arrival in designated facilities, can get close to to fully prevent the importation of cases or new variants," she said.

Mr Kwarteng responded by again referring to the incomplete registration form, but when pressed again by Ms Reid, he said he was "happy to accept" the hotel quarantine system came in too late.

"I don't recognise that but if that's what you're saying, I'm quite happy to accept that," he said.

The system has been widely criticised for arriving too late and experiencing technical teething issues.

In the same Good Morning Britain interview, Mr Morgan grilled the business secretary on the government's decision to halve aid to Yemen, while continuing to trade arms with Saudi Arabia.

Mr Morgan asked: "How comfortable do you feel that we have halved our support for the poor, impoverished, war-torn people of Yemen but at the same time we are giving no sanctions and virtually no public criticism of the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, who started the war?"

Mr Kwarteng admitted that the government trades arms with Saudi Arabia. However, he defended the decision to halve aid to Yemen.

"No country has given more support than the UK to Yemen in the last three to four years," he responded.

Alongside Saudi Arabia's relationship with Yemen, Mr Morgan raised a recent official US report stating that Saudi Crown prince Mohammed bin Salman likely approved the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi."The way in which we stop Saudi Arabia doing bad things is by talking to them and stressing that we’re appalled by their behaviour," Mr Kwarteng insisted.In July last year, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab announced that individuals linked to the killings of Mr Khashoggi would be among the first to face UK sanctions for human rights abuses.