COVID-19 travel: Expect ‘knock on the door’ when you return from amber countries, Priti Patel warns

People who return from countries on the government’s travel amber list should expect a “knock on the door”, the home secretary has warned.

Priti Patel has told the Daily Mail newspaper enforcement is being stepped up to make sure people who visit countries such as France, Italy and Spain obey the rules on quarantining.

Currently, anyone who returns from a country on the amber list – which is the vast majority of countries around the world – has to self-isolate for 10 days and take two COVID tests.

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On Wednesday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said 30,000 home visits had already taken place in the last week to check if people were quarantining.

A Home Office source confirmed to Sky News that a private contractor, Mitie, will carry out the enforcement checks but the police may also visit if people are suspected of breaking the quarantine rules.

Asked by the Mail on Wednesday whether holidaymakers should expect a “knock on the door” when they got home, Ms Patel said: “Yes, people should.

“There is a service, provision is in place, capacity has been increased for that very reason. People will not go unchecked.

“Significant resources have been put in place – millions of pounds – in terms of the follow-up checking of people around their testing and making sure they stay at home. It has been stepped up.”

Sky News has been told that officials are capable of carrying out 10,000 home visits a day.

The tone of the warning was in contrast to the comments from Transport Secretary Grant Shapps on Thursday morning, who said Britons should “apply common sense” over whether or not they choose to fly to amber list countries.

Since the ban on foreign holidays was lifted on Monday as part of the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, people have been able to enjoy quarantine-free travel to a dozen destinations on the government’s green list.

But there has been confusion over countries on the amber list, with different government ministers appearing to offer contradictory statements.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned that “you should not be going to an amber list country on holiday”, saying travel to those nations should only be for circumstances like visiting a sick relative or going to a funeral.

Mr Shapps told Sky News on Thursday: “We’ve moved away from a situation where everything is ‘it’s banned it’s illegal’, I know we’ve got very used to this in the last year…

“We’re moving away from that and asking people to apply a bit of common sense.”

But he added: “There’s a heck of a lot of hassle involved in… an amber country.

“You’ve got to quarantine. People will come to your house to check your quarantine. It’s expensive. We’re not at the stage of saying to people, go to those places on holiday. Please don’t.”

Labour’s shadow trade secretary Emily Thornberry said the UK should be ditching a system that allows people travelling from countries on different lists to mix at airports and be much “stricter” in general.

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She told Sky News: “The Labour Party thinks that we need to pause this. We need to stop it.

“We certainly need to stop this idea of amber countries and we need to be much stronger, pause it, and have a look again at our travel, but be really much stricter about it.”

It came as the boss of easyJet – which this morning announced it has sunk deeper into the red with half-year losses of £645m – warned that the UK is “falling behind” other European countries in terms of reopening travel.

Johan Lundgren said: “We have looked at the data that is available and the scientific evidence shows that you have a number of countries in Europe that are now on the amber list that should go into the green list.”

Thousands of people have reportedly travelled to destinations on the amber list since Monday, such as France, Greece, Spain and the US.

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