A full UK border closure is being “considered” by the UK government amid concerns about new variants of Covid-19 being imported from abroad.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is reportedly facing pressure from some members of the cabinet to close the border completely, in an effort to protect against further mutant strains.
Earlier this week the government closed all of the UK travel corridors until at least 15 February, which allowed arrivals from an approved list of countries to enter the UK without having to quarantine.
Under new rules, people who arrive in the UK will now have to show proof of a negative Covid-19 test from up to 72 hours before their journey to be allowed entry.
However, the travel restrictions could be extended further and may see the UK’s borders close entirely to foreigners following concerns about new coronavirus variants being brought into the country from overseas.
Environment Secretary George Eustice has said that the action is being “considered”, but it is unclear if and when a full border shutdown could be introduced.
Mr Eustice told Sky News: “We always keep things under review and it’s been considered”.
"There is concern at the moment at the 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."
People ‘should not travel’
Home Secretary Priti Patel said it is still “far too early” to speculate on when lockdown restrictions may ease when asked if people should be booking a foreign holiday for this summer.
Ms Patel said the government’s focus now remains on delivering the vaccine and warned that people should not be travelling unless it is “absolutely critical”.
Asked if the UK could keep its borders closed to foreign visitors until autumn this year, she said: “Our focus of course, with regards to borders and travel, people should not be travelling (now) unless of course it is absolutely critical and essential.
“We have stringent measures (at the border) for a very good reason because we want to protect the health of members of the public, and also we want to make sure that we can deliver and safeguard this world-leading vaccine rollout programme.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson was accused earlier this week of having “overruled” Ms Patel at the start of the pandemic in March last year, by opting to keep the UK’s borders open to foreign visitors.
However, some senior cabinet ministers are understood to be calling once again for the orders to be closed and follow the much tougher travel measures put in place in other countries, such as Australia and New Zealand.
Speaking about the possibility of introducing such measures in the UK, Mr Eustice said: “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."