Priti Patel: Why didn’t the UK shut its borders back in March?

Piers Morgan asks Priti Patel ‘what she’s reading’ during interview

Unlike many other countries, the Prime Minister did not take any action to stop the flow of people travelling into the UK last year as the virus took hold. It has lead to calls for the Prime Minister to explain why he allegedly ignored the Home Secretary’s advice.

The Home Secretary appeared to suggest she was overruled in a meeting of Conservative party supporters on Tuesday evening.

In a video recording, acquired by right-wing political website Guido Fawkes, Ms Patel said: “On ‘should have closed our borders earlier’, the answer is yes.

“I was an advocate of closing them last March.”

This comes as the UK recorded its deadliest ever day with the virus, topping 1,800 deaths reported on a single day.

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Last week the Prime Minister finally suspended travel into the UK, with anyone required to travel asked to show proof of a negative test prior to boarding their UK bound flight.

International arrivals have to quarantine for ten days unless they show a negative test after five days.

At Prime Ministers Questions on Wednesday, Labour leader Keir Starmer said the Government was not disputing Ms Patel’s version of events, asking: “Why did the prime minister overrule the home secretary?”

Mr Johnson ignored the question, saying only that the UK had “introduced one of the toughest border regimes in the world”.

The PM added: “I’m delighted that he now praises the Home Secretary.”

Responding to Ms Patel’s latest comments, the shadow home secretary, Nick Thomas-Symonds, said: “This is a shocking admission from the home secretary about the government’s failure to secure the UK’s borders against Covid.

“Priti Patel’s admission, coupled with the complete lack of strategy for testing of travellers, means that the Government has left our doors open to the virus and worrying mutations.

“Ministers now need to urgently review and overhaul border policy, whilst taking responsibility for the huge damage their incompetence has done to our national safety and security.”

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Why didn’t the UK close its borders?

Many other countries across the world put in travel bans back in March, meaning no one could enter the country unless they were a passport holder, or under other strict regulations.

New Zealand, one of the world’s most successful examples of how to deal with a pandemic, closed its borders.

Nationals who travelled back into the country had to self isolate and register with the health service so they could be traced after their arrival.

Canada similarly closed its borders to anyone but nationals and close relations.

Singapore closed transit and entry to several countries with emerging outbreaks.

These countries and many others with bans in place have kept low coronavirus rates throughout the pandemic.

Why the UK has only just bought in mandatory testing and the suspension of most travel is not yet clear – but it was reported in March that the Home Secretary and Mr Johnson were in a row over

Ms Patel reportedly pleaded with Mr Johnson to halt flights inbound to the UK, but the request clearly fell on deaf ears.

Guidance around self-isolation was also not mandatory at the time from high-risk countries – including Wuhan in China, where the virus first broke out.

Border measures were not bought in until June 8, three months after the UK had been put into lockdown.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We have strong measures in place at the border, which are vital as we roll out the vaccine.”

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