BRITAIN’S borders could be shut completely to overseas travel under draconian plans being considered by ministers to keep out mutant Coronavirus strains.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said harsher measures at the frontiers, which would lock out all non-Brits, are “under review”.
He said there is concern within Government about the number of variations of the virus developing around the world that could prove to be vaccine resistant.
Pressed on whether a full border closure was possible, he replied: “We always keep these things under review and it’s been considered.
“There is concern at the moment about the number of mutant strains that there are.
“So different strains of this coronavirus are cropping up in other countries, concerns that there’s a risk that one day there will be a strain that might be able to evade the vaccine.”
He added: “That’s why last week the PM toughened up the current restrictions. We require a test before people travel and then they must quarantine while they’re here – there are now no exemptions from that policy.
“So we’ve already toughened it up, we think that’s the right approach for now, but obviously everything’s always kept under review.
“Personally I wouldn’t like to see all borders closed, I’d like to see us get past this pandemic get the vaccine rolled out and start opening things again instead of closing things.
“We can’t rule anything out but for now the restrictions we have in place for that requirement for quarantine and the requirement for a pre-travel test, we think that is sufficient and the right and appropriate measure for now.”
The Cabinet minister revealed he hasn’t yet booked a foreign holiday for this year, but expressed hopes life will start to go back to “much closer to normal” by late Spring or early summer.
He expressed hopes that the fast rollout of the vaccine, which has now topped 5 million doses, will start bear fruit within the next 12 weeks, and if all vulnerable groups can be jabbed by the end of February as planned “then by the Spring we can start to turn the corner”.
Mr Eustice told Sky News: “There is light at the end of the tunnel. Once we get all those vulnerable cohorts vaccinated and start to move down the age ranges in late Spring/early summer, I really think it will be possible to return to life much closer to normal.
“It won’t be entirely normal initially but we will be able to come out of the lockdown and start living life again in the way we wanted it.”
The Environment Secretary also refused to rule out a plan being drawn up by Department of Health officials to give people who test positive for Coronavirus £500 to cover the costs of self-isolation.
He said: “we do need people if they’ve been asked to self-isolate to self-isolate and obviously we always review the reasons why they might not.
“No decisions have been made on this but this is a dynamic fast-moving situation with the pandemic but we’re always keeping multiple policies under review.”