Covid: Over 1.5m people flew into UK in first four months of 2021, figures show

28 May 2021, 11:32 | Updated: 28 May 2021, 16:40

More than 1.5 million passengers have arrived in the UK in 2021
More than 1.5 million passengers have arrived in the UK in 2021. Picture: Charles Bowman/Zuma Press/PA Images

By Will Taylor

More than 1.5 million people flew into the UK in the first four months of this year despite Boris Johnson boasting of having one of the toughest border regimes in the world.

Labour has blasted the quarantine policy as "weak and dangerous" as the Indian variant continues to spread. In March, the PM said the UK has "one of the toughest border regimes anywhere in the world" when the first cases of the Brazilian variant were detected in the UK.

Home Office figures for January to April show that in each of the four months, around two thirds of the arrivals were British nationals.

The data was published after anger at the Government's approach to allowing some travel despite the fear of variants and new cases being imported.

It also follows LBC's exclusive, which revealed more than 100 direct flights have landed in the UK since India was put on the red list.

It has now emerged the variant first identified in India, which vaccines work against but appears to be more transmissible, was responsible for 75% of Covid cases in the UK.

"The Conservatives' border protections against Covid are weak and dangerous, putting our hopes for freedom at risk.

"Time and time again, the UK Government promised strong border measures, but the truth is now out - millions of people have been flying in to the UK with only a tiny percentage going into hotel quarantine.

"It's beyond reckless that so many people arrived during the third lockdown when international travel was supposed to be tightly restricted. No wonder we have had so many variant outbreaks, with Conservative chaos on border protections."

From January 18, travellers coming from overseas had to show proof of a negative Covid-19 test, and the travel corridors were suspended, forcing arrivals to self-isolate for 10 days after landing.

Read more: UK travel rules: Can I holiday abroad and which countries are allowing Brits to enter?

Read more: Amber list countries: What are the rules for holidaymakers?

This was made more stringent when the Government began red-listing countries where the public health situation was considered so grave that arrivals from those places would need to book a hotel quarantine.

Mr Johnson has previously said the Government "instituted one of the toughest border regimes in the world".

A Home Office spokesperson said: "Protecting public health is our priority and as we reopen international travel safely we will maintain 100% health checks at the border to protect the wider public and our vaccine rollout.

"We have some of the most stringent border measures in the world, banning travel from red list countries, Implementing passenger locator forms for all arrivals and implementing a strict three-test regime for arrivals.

"Border Force check every passenger who arrives at the border to ensure they have complied with the health measures and we have overseen mandatory 10-day quarantine for those arriving from amber countries at home and in a managed facility for those from red list countries."

The data also shows how travel to the UK completely collapsed as the pandemic began.

A total of 7 million people arrived by air in January 2020, followed by 6.8 million in February, before that figure nearly halved in March, when the first lockdown began.

Then in April, a mere 112,300 people are recorded as arriving, followed by 139,300 in May and 194,900 in June 2020.

By contrast, 631,500 people arrived in January 2021, followed by 319,200 in February, 386,600 in March and 447,300 in April.