In the Downing Street Press Conference this evening Boris Johnson announced that travel corridors are to be closed from Monday.
Prof Mark Woolhouse, Professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, University of Edinburgh, said:
“The UK government’s decision to close travel corridors and insist on a rigorous test an quarantine policy is not surprising in the current climate of concern about new coronavirus variants.
“The exit strategy from this policy is unclear.
“Global levels of infection are unlikely to fall significantly in the foreseeable future.
“The virus will continue to generate new variants, some of which may be more transmissible or less preventable using current vaccines.
“Even a successful vaccination programme cannot fully protect us against future variants.
“For these reasons it is hard to see what the government’s criteria for relaxing these restrictions in the future might be.”
Dr Michael Head, Senior Research Fellow in Global Health, University of Southampton, said:
“This change is welcome but like so many government policies, it is late in arriving. It would have been much better to have had this implemented at the time of the first lockdown. International travel is precisely how this pandemic was able to spread around the world in just a few months. Given how COVID-19 transmission is driven by superspreading events, even a small number of imported cases into the UK can seed very large outbreaks. For example, there were many early reports of transmission at international conferences, in ski resorts and on cruise ships. And here we are, one year later and with over 100k deaths along with so much morbidity in the form of long COVID.
“Countries that have handled the pandemic relatively well include Australia and New Zealand. Like the UK, they are high-income island nations, and one key policy has been their requiring quarantine on arrival to ensure that inbound travellers cannot be the source of any onward transmission. They have also ensured adherence with these policies, by requiring travellers having to quarantine at nominated sites, often hotels. It is important that the UK does ensure adherence to this policy revision, and using hotels in this way is a relatively simple way of doing that.
“Elsewhere, many nations in sub-Saharan Africa have implemented strict border controls as part of their pandemic response, and the COVID-19 death toll from the entire continent of Africa is less than that of the UK. The UK can learn lessons from all corners of the world.”
Prof Lawrence Young, Virologist and Professor of Molecular Oncology, University of Wariwck, said:
“This decision to close all travel corridors along with enforcing virus testing and quarantine for incoming travellers feels a bit like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. We have known from the very beginning of the pandemic that the virus first arrived in the UK from travellers returning from mainland Europe and that this fuelled both the first wave of the pandemic and subsequent infections in September and October. Strict border controls have been a key measure in those countries that have managed to successfully restrict infections and return to some degree of normality such as Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and South Korea. The variant viruses appear to be much more infectious than the original virus so would spread rapidly once they are in the UK. Stopping the spread of all viruses, variant or otherwise, can only be achieved by restricting person-to-person contact be that by lockdown as we are currently experiencing or by preventing travellers from spreading infection that was picked up in other countries.”
Prof Gary McLean, Professor in Molecular Immunology, London Metropolitan University, said:
“These measures are long overdue and should go some way towards protecting the UK from new introductions of virus variants of concern. What they won’t do is control the virus that is already circulating here.
“Ideally these measures should have been applied during the summer of 2020 when new daily cases were low and they should have remained in place for a long period of time, similar to what other countries have done successfully.
“This pandemic is global and border restrictions are obviously a necessary way of controlling further transmissions whilst high case numbers and emergence of new variants continues elsewhere.”
All our previous output on this subject can be seen at this weblink: