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Fury as 35 countries with cases of South African and Brazilian Covid variants left off red list

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Britain’s hotel quarantine scheme came under fresh criticism on Sunday when it emerged 35 countries where mutant coronavirus strains have been found are not on the list. 

Earlier this week, the Government confirmed that all passengers from 33 ‘red list’ countries would have to quarantine for ten days in a hotel from February 15.

But an analysis carried out by the World Health Organisation has found dozens of countries where the highly-infectious South African and Brazilian variants have been found are not on the list. 

They include Austria, Denmark, France, Greece, Japan, Kenya, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Belgium, Canada and the United States. 

Labour Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds reacted with fury at the news, branding the Government’s quarantine measures ‘dangerously inadequate’.   

Scientists also said the oversight was ‘not good enough’, adding that the virus ‘spreads like wildfire’.  

Britain's hotel quarantine scheme came under fresh criticism on Sunday when it emerged 35 countries where mutant coronavirus strains have been found are not on the list

Britain’s hotel quarantine scheme came under fresh criticism on Sunday when it emerged 35 countries where mutant coronavirus strains have been found are not on the list

Earlier this week, the Government confirmed that all passengers from 33 'red list' countries would have to quarantine for ten days in a hotel from February 15

Earlier this week, the Government confirmed that all passengers from 33 ‘red list’ countries would have to quarantine for ten days in a hotel from February 15

The WHO analysis, which was reported by the Sunday Times, also found that the Brazilian Covid strain has been found in ten nations, six of which have not been added to the UK red list.

As well as South Africa and Brazil, nations which are also on the list include Argentina, Colombia, Uruguay, Rwanda and Botswana.

How will the UK’s arrivals testing scheme work? 

How many tests do people need to get?

1 – Passengers get their first mandatory test within 72-hours of their departing flight.

(When they arrive – from a country that isn’t on the list of 33 ‘red’ countries that will quarantine in a hotel – they must isolate for 10 days)

2 – On day two of self-isolation, a Covid PCR test will be administered. The tests will be posted to the traveller, it is understood.

3 – An optional test can be taken on the fifth day of at-home isolation. If it comes back negative, the traveller will no-longer have to self isolate.

4 – Another mandatory test will be carried out on day eight.

How are the mandatory tests enforced?

Fines will be issued for those who don’t get tested, The Times reports.

But it is not clear how the mandatory testing will be enforced – i.e. how officials will know if the tests have been taken or not.

It is also not clear how much the fines will be.

Will they be lateral flow or PCR tests?

The tests on day two and day eight will likely be PCR tests – which are more reliable than the quicker lateral flow ones.

The tests passengers flying into the UK must take can be lateral flow tests or PCR tests.

It is unclear what tests passengers can take on their optional day five test.

Who will pay for the tests?

The traveller will have to pay for the tests.

But of the 41 countries which the WHO’s report said the South African strain had spread to, 29 of them do not feature on Britain’s red list. 

Overall, it means arrivals from 35 counties were more infectious strains which could beat or limit the effect of the available coronavirus vaccines will be free to avoid the hotel scheme when they land in Britain.

Instead, they will be trusted to quarantine at home for ten days.

Dr Julian Tang, a virologist at Leicester University, told The Sunday Times: ‘It’s not good enough.

‘This virus spreads like wildfire. If you let some people in but not others, from a virology point of view, it’s fairly futile.’ 

Mr Thomas-Symonds said: ‘These revelations expose the fact that – as Labour warned – the UK Government’s quarantine measures will continue to leave us completely exposed to emerging strains of the virus.

‘Not only are the measures far too slow to begin – 50 days after the South African strain emerged – they are also dangerously inadequate. Tory incompetence is dangerous.’

Former Labour leader Ed Miliband earlier told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: ‘At the moment the government is proposing a quarantine system that covers just five per cent of arrivals that happen each day in the UK.

‘That is not an effective quarantine system.’

The news came after it emerged on Friday night that passengers arriving in Britain from countries not on the Covid hotspot list could have to take up to four tests during their at-home isolation period.  

All the tests must be paid for by the traveller. Those who fail to take the mandatory tests face fines, reports claim.

It is unclear how much the tests will cost, but private patients can fork out around £150 on one currently.

This means it could cost up to £600 for all four tests. 

The travellers’ first test will be taken up to 72 hours before flying – as is the rule currently.

Once home, arrivals must begin their ten-day self isolation.

On their second day in quarantine, travellers need to get a second compulsory Covid test.

It will likely be a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test which will be posted to Britons to carry out themselves, sources claim.

They could also be given the details of their nearest Covid testing centre after filling in a passenger locator form.

Arrivals will then have the option of a third Covid test they can take on the fifth day of at-home isolation.

This is optional and will allow the traveller to leave quarantine early should it come back negative.

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