MATT Hancock will this evening hold a press conference at 5pm TONIGHT as fears grow over tougher measures being slapped on returning travellers.
The Health Secretary will appear from Downing Street this evening following Boris Johnson’s hopeful suggestion lockdown measures could start to be relaxed in three weeks.
Matt Hancock will give a 5pm press conference this eveningCredit: Rex Features
The PM said he is “looking at the potential of relaxing some measures” ahead of a review of restrictions on February 15.
Speaking this morning Barnet FC’s stadium in north London, Mr Johnson said: “Now this massive achievement has been made of rolling out this vaccination programme, I think people want to see us making sure we don’t throw that away by having a premature relaxation and then another big surge of infection.
“We’re going to be looking at where we’ve got to on February 15. We’ll be deciding before then whether we’ll be getting schools back, but daily we’re looking at data and deciding when we’ll be looking to lift restrictions.”
Mr Johnson also said hotel quarantine could be on the cards for returning travellers.
When asked if ministers were looking at hotel quarantine, the PM said: “We are definitely looking at that.
“But the UK does already have one of the tightest regimes at the border already.”
Mr Johnson stressed it was crucial to protect the vaccination program, saying: “We are on target to hit out ambition of vaccinating everybody in the most vulnerable groups by the middle of February.
“If we’re going to make that effort, we want to make sure we protect our population against re-infection from abroad.
“That idea of hotels is certainly one thing we are actively working on. We need a solution that gives us the maximum possible protection.”
The PM said there is a risk of “a new variant, which is a vaccine-busting variant” coming into the UK.
It follows fears the South African and Brazilian variants could have a level of immunity against the vaccine.
A decision to tighten border controls is set to be made tomorrow as the PM and top ministers gather for the Covid ‘O’ committee.
The new rule will be a hammer blow to the tourist trade – and visitors will also be clobbered with the cost of an airport hotel bill immediately on arrival.
Two senior government sources told The Times that the Prime Minister was becoming “more swayed” to make the extreme decision.
And Rishi Sunak is also said to back the plan – believing that the economic cost of the hotel plan is outweighed by the risks of the present travel restrictions.
The Chancellor joins Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Home Secretary Priti Patel in the group of Cabinet ministers who want the decision to include arrivals from all countries, according to reports.
A source said: “The view at both the official and ministerial level is that there is no point doing it in half measures.
“You might as well do the blanket ban.”
But Grant Shapps, Transport Secretary, has argued that the new restrictions should only apply to passengers arriving from countries with known new strains of coronavirus.
Mr Johnson is also considering a “whack-a-mole” policy of bringing travel bans as soon as new variants are discovered, like what was done with both South Africa and South America.
The “test to release” scheme which allows people to escape isolation after 5 days and a negative test could also be scrapped under plans to tighten the rules.
Another suggestion is forcing new arrivals to have a GPS tracking on their mobile phones, so officials can ensure they are isolating, according to Politco.
Though, this idea has been downplayed.
Mr Hancock was released from six days of self-isolation yesterday, after coming into contact with someone with Covid.