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Coronavirus: UK should have quarantined airport arrivals 'much earlier' in COVID-19 outbreak

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By Chris Harris
Coronavirus: UK should have quarantined airport arrivals 'much earlier' in COVID-19 outbreak
Copyright  Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP Photos

Introducing a two-week quarantine on travellers arriving into UK airports should have been done much earlier in the outbreak, an expert has told Euronews.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced plans for the isolation measure as he addressed the nation on Sunday (May 10) evening and laid out a plan for gradually easing the country’s COVID-19 lockdown.

He said that with the transmission rate of the disease now “significantly lower” it was time to introduce the quarantine.

But Gabriel Scally, a visiting professor of public health at the University of Bristol, said it should have been introduced much earlier.

"The whole response has been disjointed and this quarantine proposal is no different in that at all stages the government has followed on behind and played catch up, whether it's with social distancing or testing,” he told Euronews.

"They took an age to ban mass gatherings so it's [introducing a quarantine in early May] consistent with their record of not doing things until it's too late.”

The UK has the worst COVID-19 death toll in Europe and the second-highest in the world, behind the US.

The disease has killed more than 32,000 people in the UK and infected more than 200,000, latest figures show.

Professor Scally, asked if introducing a quarantine at airports earlier would have been a good idea, drew attention to the Champions League football match between Liverpool and Atletico Madrid on March 11.

At that stage, Spain had reported around 14,000 COVID-19 cases and 35 deaths. Madrid was at the heart of Spain’s outbreak.

“Lots of people in Liverpool and the north-west think they have got a problem with the virus because of the Atletico Madrid match with Liverpool.

“They don't think it should have gone ahead, and certainly not with 3,000 Spanish fans flying in to attend."

The UK’s 14-day quarantine has not been introduced yet and the government says it will set out more details in the coming days.

Arrivals from France, however, will be exempt.

“Throughout the outbreak, we have brought in the right measures at the right time based on scientific advice,” a UK government spokesperson told Euronews in a statement.

“When there was significant transmission of coronavirus within the UK, the advice was that border restrictions would have a very marginal impact on the number of cases within the UK.

“Now that domestic transmission is decreasing, it is the right time to prepare new measures at the border to protect us from imported cases and the risk of a second wave of infections from those arriving here.”