Matt Hancock erupts at SNP MP in brutal slap down over border controls

Hancock tells SNP MP UK already banned ‘non-essential travel’

The Government’s border controls should be tightened due to the South African variant of coronavirus, the SNP’s health spokesperson has said. But Health Secretary Matt Hancock noted all non-essential travel has been banned. He added there is clear guidance for mandatory isolation for new arrivals.

Dr Philippa Whitford told MPs: “The concern, of course, is that whilst current vaccines will still give a significant degree of protection, this variant’s resistance to some Covid antibodies could reduce their effectiveness.

“Does the Secretary of State plan to tighten internal travel restrictions to avoid it spreading across the UK as happened with the Kent variant?”

She added: “This variant is already present in many countries and new, more resistant Covid variants could evolve anywhere in the world.

“So, will the Government now reconsider their very minimal quarantine plan and extend it to all incoming travellers?”

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Matt Hancock replied: “She asks about travel and we’ve already put in place rules against all non-essential travel with a clear stay local guidance and we also have mandatory isolation for new arrivals.

“So, yes, we have tightened in response to the new evidence that she mentions.”

People living in areas where the South African variant of coronavirus has been identified should consider eating what they can find in their house rather than shopping for fresh supplies, the Government said.

A door-to-door testing blitz has been launched in the eight areas where cases of the variant have been identified which are not linked to international travel, leading to fears it may be spreading in the community.

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Although shopping for essential goods is a legally valid reason to leave the house, ministers and officials stressed that in the areas affected people should take extra steps to minimise contact.

Universities minister Michelle Donelan told the BBC: “The time is now for them to have extra conversations with their employers, for them to consider do they really need to go to the shops or could they have what they have got in their house?

“Do they need to go outside to exercise, could they do that indoors, because we all have to be vigilant.”

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Mr Hancock told MPs that 105 cases of the variant first identified in South Africa have been found in the UK, including 11 cases which do not appear to have any links to international travel.

Mobile testing units have been deployed and home testing kits are being distributed in Hanwell, west London; Tottenham, north London; Mitcham, south London; Walsall in the West Midlands; Broxbourne, Hertfordshire; Woking, Surrey; Maidstone, Kent; and Southport, Merseyside.

Asked whether people in those areas should eat tinned food instead of going shopping, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We are asking everybody across the country to stay at home except for a small number of exemptions, one of which is to go shopping for food and essential items.

“I would repeat what the Health Secretary said yesterday, that those in the postcodes that we set out should be extremely cautious and should do everything they can to minimise contact.”

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