THE UK quarantine system for people flying into the UK is open to abuse with minimal enforcement, Essex News and Investigations can reveal.
As people flying into the country from Spain have been told they must now quarantine for 14 days, we can reveal how lax the checks are to ensure they are complying.
Public Health England (PHE), which is responsible for checking if people are complying with the requirement to self isolate for two weeks, has admitted it carries out no physical checks on the addresses it is given by those who have to go into quarantine.
Travellers who have to quarantine for 14 days must provide the address where they will do it and a contact phone number they can be reached on.
But there have been no physical random checks on the addresses people have given to see if they were really where they said they were to see if they were complying and checks have also been allowed via mobile phones, leaving the system open to abuse.
We asked how many addresses had been visited to ensure compliance was happening.
PHE admitted all the checks it has carried out were done by phone, including by calling mobile numbers and not just landline phone numbers.
Will Jones, Deputy Chief Operating Officer for Public Health England, said: “To support the government’s border health measures, PHE has set up the Isolation Assurance Service (IAS) that calls a random sample of eligible UK arrivals to ask them for assurance they are self-isolating as well as providing advice on the COVID-19 symptoms and what to do if they experience them. So far the majority of those contacted have confirmed they are following the requirement to self-isolate for two weeks on their return to the UK.”
PHE said it randomly samples approximately one in five eligible arrivals into England and Northern Ireland and limited details are securely passed to a contractor to make the calls.
A spokesman said: "Each person contacted is given advice to understand why they need to self-isolate, how to do so and what to do if they are experiencing symptoms."
The system means that people who are phoned could easily say they were isolating in quarantine even if they were not, with no real repercussions.
However, PHE insists most people will comply.
The spokesman added: "To date there has been a high level of compliance and the vast majority of people contacted have confirmed they will self-isolate for two weeks on arrival to the UK.
"The IAS attempts to contact people by phoning three times over three days and sending a text message for reply by the fourth day.
"If contact is not successful then PHE passes the details of each case to the Home Office and the Police, who make decisions regarding further action."
PHE confirmed that the checking service was done by both landlines and mobile phone numbers including texts.
ESSEX NEWS AND INVESTIGATIONS OPINION
Our revelations about the ineffectiveness of the checks and enforcement of the so-called quarantine is another example of how what the Government tells us about the coronavirus crisis and the reality of what is actually happening in the real world are wildely different. There has never been a time to question so much what you are being told as in 2020.