Potential Covid variants are entering the UK unchecked as the rate of positive tests being genome sequenced from amber-listed countries has fallen to just 3%, official figures show.
The analysis shows that just 44 - or 3%
- of the 1,388 positive test results on people arriving from amber
countries in the three weeks to June 30 were genome sequenced to identify variants. That compares with 61%
in the three weeks to March 17.
There was a similar decline even for travellers returning from red list countries - including South Africa, South America and India where three of the variants first emerged.
The official data, analysed by the House of Commons Library, showed the proportion of positive tests from red list countries that were sequenced dropped from 65% to 13% over the same period.
The disclosure comes as it emerged that travellers to and from the UK have forked out £380 million for expensive PCR tests in the past six months supposedly so that the Government can track variants. The ability to genome sequence samples from PCR tests to check for variants has been used by ministers as the main reason for requiring travellers to pay for them, even if they have been fully vaccinated.
Layla Moran, chair of the All-Party parliamentary Group on Coronavirus, which commissioned the research, said the figures were “staggering” at a time when concerns about the beta variant had led to new tough quarantine restrictions on France.
"The rise of the beta variant in neighbouring countries should be setting alarm bells ringing in Government. Yet instead ministers are dismantling our defences against the virus and opening the floodgates to new variants,” she said." It seems that vital lessons have still not been learned from the failure to prevent the delta variant taking root in the UK. The Government must urgently fix this scandal and step up the sequencing of test results, before more dangerous Covid variants slip through the net."
Two-thirds of positive tests among travellers with a known origin since March have been from one of ten countries: Pakistan, India, Poland, Romania, Spain, France, Turkey, Bulgaria, Portugal, or Nigeria, according to the Commons Library analysis.