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Coronavirus: Home Secretary Priti Patel admits she doesn’t know how many people with COVID-19 are entering UK | Politics News

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The home secretary has admitted that she does not know how many people coming into the UK have coronavirus.

Priti Patel could not say what proportion of the roughly 50,000 travellers passing through the border into Britain every day either using air corridors or going into quarantine are carrying COVID-19.

She said she has asked for the figure, but it is held by another government department.

A passenger wearing a face mask and a visor as a precaution against the novel coronavirus arrive at Heathrow airport, west London, on May 22, 2020. - Travellers arriving in Britain will face 14 days in quarantine from next month to prevent a second coronavirus outbreak, the government announced on Friday, warning that anyone breaking the rules faced a fine or prosecution. (Photo by Tolga Akmen / AFP) (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)
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0.5% of people with the virus were said to have travelled from abroad

Ms Patel was challenged by Labour’s Yvette Cooper, chair of the Commons home affairs select committee, to explain how many of those entering the UK have coronavirus.

“That I don’t know,” the home secretary replied.

“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 on a daily basis with coronavirus.

“That figure is held centrally elsewhere in government with the Department of Health and Public Health England.”

Sky News has contacted both to ask them to provide the latest numbers.

priti patel in the commons
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Priti Patel said the information is ‘held centrally’ by other agencies after being asked by Yvette Cooper (below)
Yvette Cooper

Ms Patel denied she had never asked for the information, and then said the latest estimate was 0.5% of travellers.

Ms Cooper told her that was the same figure as 23 March – when the UK’s lockdown was announced – and actually related to the proportion of cases in the country as a whole bought in by people who had recently arrived.

“I have just told you the figure that I have been given as the only reliable estimate,” the home secretary hit back.

“We will ask for that to come to you in writing from a government scientific adviser.”

Professor John Aston, the Home Office’s chief scientific adviser, later admitted the figure was “highly uncertain”.

But he said “we continue to be confident” that the number of people with coronavirus arriving in the UK had not risen above approximately 0.5%.

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David Lammy, Labour’s shadow justice secretary, posted a clip of Ms Patel and Ms Cooper’s exchange online, writing: “Good leadership has never been so important. But this government is asleep at the wheel. Watch and weep.”

A two-week quarantine on new-arrivals from most countries was brought in by the government at the start of June.

At the time, Ms Patel said that it was being introduced “to keep the transmission rate down and prevent a devastating second wave”.

The restrictions were then changed to allow travellers entry into the UK if arriving from countries deemed low-risk because of their infection rates.

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