Minister 'doesn't know' if passports will be stamped to avoid quarantine cheating

5 February 2021, 10:31 | Updated: 5 February 2021, 11:58

By Patrick Grafton-Green

Foreign Office minister James Cleverly admits he "doesn't know" if passports are being stamped to prevent travellers rerouting and avoiding UK quarantine.

Mr Cleverly was discussing with LBC's Nick Ferrari the introduction of quarantine hotels for people travelling from Covid hotspot countries, a policy which will come into force on February 15.

Nick asked him: “Just thinking of the very challenging job that our Border Force officials have to do, now Britain has come out of the European Union, if someone routes through Schiphol or Frankfurt or Paris, do they get their passports stamped now?”

The minister responded: “That I genuinely don’t know.”

"You are foreign office minister Mr Cleverly,” Nick reminded him.

READ MORE: Minister defends quarantine hotel plan but refuses to comment on number of rooms booked

Nick added: “I’m trying to help our border force men and women, because if you stamp the passport at Schiphol, then obviously that’s going to help the man or woman, and I was hoping that you as Foreign Office minister might know about the stamping of passports but it seems not, is that the case?”

Mr Cleverly then said: “The point is, exit stamps from airports are a decision for those individual countries rather than for the UK.”

Nick had earlier asked the Foreign Office minister: “What precaution are being made to ensure passengers don’t route for instance from South Africa via Doha or Brazil via Madrid, how do we ensure that doesn’t happen?”

Mr Cleverly said: “Well we are insisting that people take a pre-departure test, the location where that test takes place gives us a strong indication of their original point of destination.

“The travel industry and the places that you mentioned, we have been working closely with them since the start of this pandemic... so there’s a really good international cooperation because none of us want anyone gaming the system.

“But like with any of these things there is a degree of personal responsibility and what we’re saying is if you’re in one of those high risk countries you really shouldn’t be travelling at all.”

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has said that, from mid-February, travellers returning to the UK from "red list" countries will have to quarantine in a government-approved facility for 10 days.

The Government originally announced last week it would be tightening the rules following the emergence of mutant new strains of the virus in South Africa and Brazil.

Ministers have been accused of being too slow to act after it was disclosed the quarantine hotels will not come into force for another two weeks.