Covid: MPs unsure if £486 million traffic light system worked


n influential committee of MPs “does not know” if the £486m traffic light system for international arrivals during the pandemic was money well spent.

A report by the public accounts committee on Tuesday gave an inconclusive verdict on the measures which put different requirements on travellers depending where they had flown in from.

Restrictions ranged from countries considered to be green, amber, or red, the most severe, which saw those arriving needing to stay in a quarantine hotel for at least 10 days.

“Managing cross-border travel was an essential part of health measures introduced by (the) government during the pandemic,” the report said.

“Despite spending at least £486m on implementing its traffic light system to manage travel, (the) government did not track its spending on managing cross-border travel or set clear objectives, so does not know whether the system worked or whether the cost was worth the disruption caused.”

The total bill for the hotel policy came to £757m, of which tax payers subsidised £329m, with one adult single-handedly racking up a £2,200 bill.

Despite the caution for those flying in from red list countries, which included Brazil and China at various points, only 2 per cent of hotel guests tested positive.

Labour MP for Hackney, Meg Hillier – who is chairman for the committee, said the policy caused “huge confusion and disruption”.

She added: “We can be clear on one thing – the cost to the taxpayer in subsidising expensive quarantine hotels, and more millions of taxpayers’ money blown on measures with no apparent plan or reasoning and precious few checks or proof that it was working to protect public health.”

The Cabinet Office has defended its actions during the pandemic, which it called an “unprecedented challenge”.

A statement added: “Our top priority was public health, and considerable efforts were made across government to put border measures in place that helped to protect the UK from arriving cases of Covid-19, buying vital time for our domestic response to new and concerning variants.

“The Covid-19 inquiry has been set up to examine the UK’s response to the pandemic and the government will meet its obligations to the inquiry in full.”


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