The next question is about whether quarantine hotels for all people, coming from all destinations, is necessary, and whether it was a mistake not to have acted quicker.
Matt Hancock says it is “incredibly important that we are cautious at the border”, noting that rules have changed, and that because of lockdown it is illegal to travel abroad in most cases.
“That is just part of the stay at home regulations,” he adds.
Dr Jenny Harries says once there is a significant infection rate in the country, the amount that comes in is relatively small. But what is different now is the new variants, she adds, noting that it is usually when there are low rates that border controls are most important.
– ‘Very, very small number’ of Brazil and SA variants in UK, says Matt Hancock
The next question is about the Brazilian and South African variants, and how sustained transmission is in the UK, as well as the effectiveness of the vaccine against the UK variant.
Matt Hancock says they are “very, very small numbers in the scheme of things”, saying enhanced contact tracing has been put in place to try and address it.
There is a special focus to make sure everyone isolates “because it is so important we get those new variants from abroad under control”.
He says they have a “high degree of confidence” that the vaccine works against the variant discovered in the UK, saying it makes it “even more important” for people to follow the rules. The tougher travel rules are also designed to prevent any more cases arising here.
Dr Susan Hopkins says there are four labs working on this, and the consensus view is that the current vaccine works against the UK variant. That work is starting on the South Africa variant, she says.