Ministers unsure if £486m pandemic traffic light system worked, say MPs | Coronavirus

At least £486m of taxpayers’ funds have been spent implementing the ‘traffic light system’ for international arrivals during the coronavirus pandemic. But the government “doesn’t know” whether it worked or not, according to a powerful committee of MPs.

The traffic light system sets the arrival rules for each country depending on whether it is on the red, orange or green list. Arrivals from Red List countries were required to stay in a quarantine hotel for at least 10 days.

Testing and quarantine requirements for people arriving in the UK were changed 10 times between February 2021 and January 2022, according to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report published on Tuesday.

The report says the government “does not know if the system worked or if the cost was worth the disruption caused”.

Airlines and holiday companies have blamed ministers for the slow resumption of overseas travel due to the rules, with many European countries imposing fewer restrictions.

“The management of cross-border travel was an essential part of the health measures introduced by the government during the pandemic,” the report said. “Despite spending at least £486m implementing its traffic light system to manage travel, [the] the government hasn’t tracked its spending to manage cross-border travel or set clear targets, so it doesn’t know if the system worked or if the cost was worth the disruption caused.

Taxpayers subsidized £329m of the total £757m cost of quarantine hotels, according to the report. And this despite the private bill of over £2,200 for a single adult. Only 2% of guests in hotel quarantine have tested positive.

Dame Meg Hillier, chair of the PAC, said: “The approach to border controls and quarantine has caused enormous confusion and disruption with 10 changes in one year. And now we can see that it’s not clear what this achieved.

“We can be clear on one thing – the cost to the taxpayer of subsidizing expensive quarantine hotels, and over millions of taxpayer dollars spent on measures with no apparent plan or reasoning and some valuable checks or evidence that it worked for protect public health.”

Hillier said the government was not learning the lessons of the pandemic fast enough, missing opportunities to respond more quickly to new variants and the spread of monkeypox.

“We don’t have time and it’s not enough for the government to incorporate these failures into its delayed public inquiry,” she said.

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The Cabinet Office, which designed the scheme, said the pandemic was an unprecedented challenge and it acted ‘swiftly and decisively’ to implement policies designed to save lives and prevent the NHS from failing. be overwhelmed.

A UK government spokesperson said: “Our top priority was public health, and considerable effort was made across government to put in place border measures which have helped protect the UK from the arrival of Covid-19 cases, buying vital time for our national response to new and concerning variants.

“The Covid-19 inquiry has been set up to examine the UK’s response to the pandemic and the government will fully meet its obligations to the inquiry.”

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