BBC host challenges Atkins on ‘dangerous’ hotel quarantine loophole threatening scheme

Victoria Atkins warned of ‘danger’ to hotel quarantines

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People returning to the UK from red-listed areas will have to stay in quarantine hotels for a minimum of three days from Monday under new rules devised to limit the spread of new coronavirus strains. The Australian-inspired measure will however differ from the original scheme as guests will be allowed to leave their rooms to have a smoke or take a breath of fresh air. BBC Today host Nick Robinson confronted Safeguarding Minister Victoria Atkins about the changes, pointing out virologist had warned of the “dangerous” risks roaming guests could pose to each other and hotel staff.

Mr Robinson said: “Minister, we’ve just heard from an epidemiologist in Melbourne, who’s more expert than you or I, that the experience in Australia is that that is dangerous.

“He says the virus spreads out of the room as soon as the door is opened.

“It spreads to staff and it can then spread to other people as well. Is that something you should take another look at?”

Ms Atkins insisted people being forced to quarantine for 10 days is “reasonable” as she insisted the social distancing measures in place would help limit the risk of spreading the virus among hotel guests.

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The Minister said: “We keep all of these measures across the pandemic under review, of course we do.

“You’ll forgive me, I haven’t heard all of the interview with the epidemiologist but I certainly don’t claim to be more expert than him.

“In terms of the policy development, of course we will keep this under review ut we are confident that the measures that we have in place ready to go on Monday are strong and they will help to protect our country.”

People returning to the UK will be required to book a room in one of the hotels made available for quarantine at an initial cost of £1,750 each.

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During Friday’s media round, Ms Atkins also refused to comment on the number of officers set to be deployed to ensure arrivals to the UK follow quarantine rules.

Speaking to BBC Breakfast, she said: “We have announced today a further £60 million for police forces.

“£58 million is to support police forces who have done an incredible job over the last year of the pandemic making sure those few people who aren’t sticking to the rules that they stop doing so and, if necessary, they are fined.”

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She said that another £2 million had been allocated to forces that will be patrolling ports and airports.

But she refused to comment on the number of police officers that would be deployed to enforce the new quarantine rules, saying only: “Police operational details – first of all I wouldn’t dream of announcing them on national television.”

When pressed, Ms Atkins insisted that the number of police patrols was sensitive operational information, saying only it would be “decided in the local area by chief constables and senior police officers”.

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