Almost 2,500 people who arrived in the UK and tested positive for coronavirus over the course of three months could not be properly traced because they gave authorities the incorrect contact information.
A Freedom of Information request submitted to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) revealed that between February 14 and May 10 this year, 2,473 people failed to correctly complete their registration details on passenger locator forms, which must be filled in by law by all those entering the country.
It was not clear whether any had been prosecuted, but 52 of those who tested positive had a variant of concern.Government guidance says it is “a criminal offence to provide false or deliberately misleading information when filling out your passenger locator form” and warns doing so could lead to a fine of up to £10,000 or 10 years in prison, or both, if accurate details are not provided.
And the period of time covered came after ministers had promised tougher measures at the border.
The failure to fill in the forms means public health officials may not have been able to ensure those who had tested positive had quarantined correctly and therefore did not spread the virus within the UK.
The Government has come under increasing pressure for its borders policy, with the Prime Minister facing criticism for not putting India on the red list of travel restrictions sooner when worries were mounting over the Delta variant, which was first identified in the country.
Boris Johnson previously said the UK “took the most drastic steps possible” to put India on the red list on April 23.
The DHSC figures showed three of those who had tested positive and could not be traced had travelled from what were at the time red-list countries, where cases of coronavirus were particularly high.
Yvette Cooper, chairwoman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said: “This shows there are still real gaps in the Government’s Covid border measures. For thousands of Covid cases to effectively be lost after they have arrived in the country is a real problem – and even more troubling when those include new variants that the Government is worried about.