PRITI Patel has sparked a fiery row after admitting she still doesn’t know how many people are coming into the UK with coronavirus.
The Home Secretary today revealed she did not know the number of infected coming into Britain, but insisted the figure was held “elsewhere” in the Government.
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In a heated Home Affairs Committee, chair and Labour MP Yvette Cooper asked for an “estimate” of the amount coming in.
Ms Patel answered: “Well that I don’t know.
“On a daily basis, the number of people coming into the country is approximately 50,000 people and that’s across all modes of transport.
“I don’t have a figure of people coming into the country with coronavirus.
“That figure is held centrally elsewhere across Government.”
However, later the Home Office’s chief scientific adviser, John Aston, wrote in a letter to Ms Cooper that the number was “insignificant” and did not have an impact on the spread of the disease.
An estimate provided by Government advisers SAGE on the 23 March for people coming from overseas to the UK who had coronavirus was 0.5 per cent of domestic cases, which is insignificant to the spread of the epidemic.
But no exact number was given as he said “any resulting estimate would be reliable.”
On May 22 Ms Patel announced the Government was enforcing a new quarantine measure to prevent a second wave of Covid-19.
The measures meant all visitors entering the UK would to self-isolate for 14 days starting from June 8, with spot checks and fines for those caught breaching the rules.
Today’s committee saw a seething Ms Cooper challenge the Home Secretary over the quarantine, and suggest Ms Patel had not even asked how many infected had slipped through.
She said: “What is the Government’s estimate?
“Shona Dunn told us in the last session that you had never asked for an estimate of how many people might be coming into the country with coronavirus.”
Ms Patel denied the accusation, but again failed to give a number.
She said: “The figure that I was given [in March was]0.5 per cent of people will potentially bring in cases from outside of the UK into the UK.”
Ms Cooper responded that the senior minister had given the same answer at the last evidence session, only to be corrected.
She added: “Were you ever given, did you ever ask for, and were you ever given an estimate of the number of people coming into the country with coronavirus.”
Ms Patel insisted: “It was difficult to get accurate information and I have asked.”
She also claimed there was “no point asking” if “hypothetical figures are accurate”.
The member of the cabinet also insisted most people were following quarantine rules at the border, but admitted the Government were only doing spot checks on about 20 per cent of those coming in.
Speaking after the meeting, Ms Cooper claimed “it seems Home Office neither knows nor has ever asked for those figures”.
Boris Johnson had previously defended the quarantine as a useful way to keep numbers down.
The Prime Minister had said: “Now that we’re getting the virus under control in the UK, there is a risk cases from abroad begin once again to make up a greater proportion of overall cases.
“We need to take steps now to manage that risk of these imported cases triggering a second peak.”
However, the Government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance suggested it was the wrong time for quarantine.
He said the controls were most effective during the early stages of a pandemic but added it was for the politicians to “make the policy and make the timing decisions”.