Covid: Quarantine hotels could help fill 'gaping hole' in UK's defences against the virus – Scotsman comment

In a recent report, the Independent Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) did not hold back as it highlighted a major weakness in the UK’s strategy to defeat Covid.

International travel was a “gaping hole in the UK’s response to the pandemic”, the report said, adding that the authorities had “relied too much upon what is, in effect, voluntary self-isolation as a means of preventing the importation of new cases of the virus”.

The committee of the country’s leading experts may have felt the need to spell out the problem in no uncertain terms given they had called for a clearer quarantine policy as long ago as last May, in a report that said “managing the risk of importing cases from other countries, with consequent high-risk of transmission, is vital” and that the creation of dedicated quarantine facilities “such as requisitioned hotels” was “essential”.

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Scotland 'learning from experience' in examining hotel quarantine plans

That report, just two months after the pandemic first hit the UK, also warned about “ambivalence in the government’s strategic response” with some advisers promoting “the idea of simply ‘flattening the curve’ or ensuring the NHS is not overwhelmed. We find this attitude counter-productive and potentially dangerous.”

As leading virologist Professor Hugh Pennington pointed out in The Scotsman earlier this month, the second wave of Covid viruses to hit the UK was “by and large not first-wave survivors but new imports, many from countries outside the UK. A price has been paid for summer holidays abroad.”

So the question many may now be asking, as the UK and Scottish governments consider introducing quarantine hotels to make sure people travelling to Scotland and the UK from overseas abide by the rules, is why was this not done sooner. To be clear, according to the rules, all travellers – including British nationals – must self-isolate for 10 days on arrival from overseas.

The reason why our governments are now thinking about quarantine hotels is concern that too many have been ignoring this “voluntary” requirement and the emergence of new variants of the virus in other parts of the world, including South Africa and Brazil, which appear to be more infectious like an earlier new strain that appear in Kent in September.

Enforced quarantine may feel like a Draconian measure, but as a temporary measure until mass vaccination is complete, it now seems overdue.

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