The Home Secretary today claimed that she argued for the UK border to be shut to international visitors when the pandemic first emerged.
Her comments are said to have been made to the Conservative Friends of India group, and go against her repeated defence of the Government's decision not to enact a full arrivals shutdown.She said: "On 'should we have closed our borders earlier', the answer is yes.
"I was an advocate of closing them last March."
The UK Government abandoned asking people to quarantine for two weeks after arriving from areas with high infection rates in March.
This was in contrast to countries such as New Zealand, which has been widely praised for its handling of the pandemic.
Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner said: "Inexcusable and unforgivable incompetence. Has Priti Patel forgotten that she was actually Home Secretary in March 2020, and every day since?
"The government's failure to get a grip has left our country's doors open to Covid and new mutations and variants throughout this crisis.”
Reform party leader Nigel Farage added: "What a pity Boris Johnson didn't listen to Priti Patel".
It was not until this week that ministers suspended all travel corridors and introduced new rules requiring arrivals to produce a negative coronavirus test and self-isolate on arrival.
This morning, Ms Patel insisted that the Government had followed scientific advice over border controls.
She told BBC Breakfast: "Government has listened to a range of advice and followed advice from professionals and advisers - medical and scientific - from day one of this pandemic and there has been collective decision making across the board.”
It came during a broadcast round that saw Ms Patel call the UK death toll “catastrophic”, but insist the UK Government could not have known deadly coronavirus would be.
She told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “When you look at the number of deaths, the number is absolutely catastrophic – appalling in every sense of the word.
“And that is partly because back in March, no one could speculate or even conceive how challenging, not just this pandemic, but how deadly coronavirus would be. None of us knew at that stage.”