Britain’s borders could shut entirely to non-Brits under drastic plans being considered by ministers.
The shock proposals would shutter travel into the UK over the fear that new variants of Covid in future could resist the vaccine.
The dramatic idea goes even further than other draft plans on the table to force arrivals into quarantine hotels, like New Zealand.
Currently anyone arriving in the UK must have a negative Covid test and also isolate for 10 days.
Rumours have been swirling for days that the government could go further – but there’s been no confirmation of how.
Environment Secretary George Eustice confirmed ministers have looked at an idea of shutting the border entirely to non-Brits – as is already the case for travellers from South America and southern Africa where mutant Covid strains have emerged.
He told Sky News: “Well look, 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.
“Ao different strains of this coronavirus are cropping up in other countries, [and there are] concerns that there’s a risk that one day there will be a strain that might be able to evade the vaccine.
“That’s why last week the Prime Minister toughened up the current restrictions… That’s the right approach for now but obviously everything’s always kept under review.”
The Daily Telegraph reported that the option of banning all non-British travellers was back on the agenda for a Covid operations committee in the coming days, despite previously being rejected by Boris Johnson.
That would go further than other plans for restrictions. The alternative plans include forcing arrivals to self-isolate in airport hotels and pay for their stay, rather than being allowed to go to private homes where enforcement is weaker.
Mr Eustice also suggested lockdown may only ease significantly in late Spring or early Summer, as fears grow that restrictions will stretch beyond Easter.
Asked when people can book holidays for the summer he said: “I do realise, we absolutely realise people’s lives are on hold in some ways.
“They’re in lockdown and nobody can quite see where we will be by the summer.
“But what they can see is the pace at which we are rolling out the vaccine. 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 once did.”