Ministers should be ready to use GPS tracking through mobile phones to monitor people self-isolating due to coronavirus, as well as paying for any lost salary while they are unable to work, former health secretary Jeremy Hunt has said.
Amid growing concern about the potential for new more virulent strains of Covid-19 bypassing vaccines, Mr Hunt warned that poor compliance with self-isolation is “the biggest flaw in our current strategy”.
His comments put additional pressure on Boris Johnson ahead of a crunch meeting of the government’s Covid Operations (CO) committee on Tuesday to discuss possible new measures to block the spread of the coronavirus variants, such as closing the borders or forcing new arrivals to quarantine in airport hotels.
Reports suggests the prime minister may be leaning towards backing the hotel scheme understood to be being pushed by Home Secretary Priti Patel and health secretary Matt Hancock, to which chancellor Rishi Sunak is also known to be sympathetic
Mr Hunt, the chair of the influential House of Commons Health Committee, today said that measures at the borders would not bring the problem under control fast enough, and that ministers must act on compliance with isolation orders.
And he said that the government must remain “cautious” in its approach, despite optimism over the vaccine reaching more than 6m people and infections falling 22 per cent from their peak, because of the uncertainty about new strains of Covid from South Africa and Brazil.
“Whilst the new strains are unlikely to render the vaccine ineffective, they may reduce its efficiency at keeping people out of hospitals,” he warned. “Because viruses are good at mutating, sooner or later there may well be a strain that is fully immune to the vaccine – not necessarily soon.