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'What the hell's going on?': Minister fumbles over new Covid rules for travellers
21 February 2022, 09:27 | Updated: 21 February 2022, 11:18
A Tory minister has defended reported plans to track arrivals to the UK for Covid reasons - despite Boris Johnson planning to ditch the vast majority of requirements this week.
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Business minister Paul Scully said the Government wanted a "light touch" at tracking the virus even as the Prime Minister is introducing his "living with Covid" strategy – with the plan due to be unveiled on Monday.
LBC's Nick Ferrari took him to task over reports that the passenger locator form will be retained even as England becomes one of the first countries to drop its pandemic rules.
It has been claimed the form, which requires people to confirm their travel details, the address they will stay at and their vaccination status ahead of journeying to the UK, will remain.
Nick questioned the point of requiring these details from people visiting or returning from other countries when they would then be allowed to walk around Britain without any pandemic precautions.
"It's a conversation that we need to have in terms of being able to track the variants of coronavirus to make sure that we still have a handle on exactly what is happening as we start to peel back some of the other surveillance," Mr Scully said.
Nick fired back: "On the one hand you're easing all the restrictions, no one need wear a mask. We have our moment of national pride. And on the other hand, you want to keep track of all variants with people arriving in the country. What the hell is going on?"
He added: "What are we keeping track of? These people arrived from Thailand or China, and then they just run up and down the high street without their masks on. But we've got their home address?"
Mr Scully said: "No, no, no. What I'm saying is that first of all, no decision has been taken on that.
"But what we will have as we peel back the restrictions, clearly we need to have a handle on what is happening in terms of variants, and a sort of like touch view on case number.
"No decision has been taken on that anyway. So that will be part of the wider discussion with the Transport Secretary as to what happens with that."
The Prime Minister will hold a cabinet meeting on his 'living with Covid' plan as he pledges "a return to normality" by scrapping the requirement to self-isolate in England.
Boris Johnson will meet with ministers on Monday morning before updating MPs in the afternoon on his blueprint for moving out of the pandemic.
He is expected to give a press conference in the evening.
He said the proposal would be about "finally giving people back their freedom" after "one of the most difficult periods in our country's history".
The PM's announcement will come shortly after it was confirmed the Queen had tested positive for coronavirus.
The Government is planning to scrap the legal duty for those who test positive for coronavirus to have to self-isolate by the end of the week.
Downing Street said the vaccination programme had left England in a "strong position to consider lifting the remaining legal restrictions", with more than 81% of adults having received a booster dose, and Covid cases continuing to fall.
Speaking before his announcement on Monday, the Prime Minister said: "Today will mark a moment of pride after one of the most difficult periods in our country's history as we begin to learn to live with Covid.
"It would not be possible without the efforts of so many - the NHS who delivered the life-saving vaccine rollout at phenomenal speed, our world-leading scientists and experts, and the general public for their commitment to protecting themselves and their loved ones.
"The pandemic is not over but thanks to the incredible vaccine rollout we are now one step closer towards a return to normality and finally giving people back their freedoms while continuing to protect ourselves and others."
As of Sunday, UK government data shows that 11,555 people are currently in hospital with the illness, with 331 of those in ventilation beds.
No 10 said the latest data meant it was time for the UK to shift the balance away from "state mandation" and towards "personal responsibility".