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Advisor admits that airport officials have only held back a THIRD of British people who have returned to the UK with coronavirus

Leading scientist Neil Ferguson admits that airport officials have seen only a THIRD passengers returning to the UK with coronavirus – despite calls for screening on arrival – helping the virus gain a foothold across the country

  • In early March, passengers returned from countries affected by viruses
  • Last week, aircraft continued to enter the country with little medical screening
  • Professor Ferguson said health officials could have intercepted only a third of people infected by coronavirus

Leading scientist Neil Ferguson has admitted that airport officials have held back only a third of the British who returned to the UK with coronavirus.

In early March, at the onset of the crisis, passengers arriving from countries hit by the pandemic complained that there were no controls on the landing in the country.

And just last week, planes kept coming in from Covid-19 hotspots, with thousands of passengers flying through major airports with very little medical screening.

Professor Ferguson said experts believed that health officials had only succeeded in intercepting and isolating about a third of people who flew to the UK after becoming infected with the virus.

Passengers of the Holland America Line ship Zaandam walk through arrivals at Terminal 2 at London's Heathrow Airport after flying back on a repatriation flight from Florida on Saturday

Passengers of the Holland America Line ship Zaandam walk through arrivals at Terminal 2 at London’s Heathrow Airport after flying back on a repatriation flight from Florida on Saturday

He said: “We spread infections in different parts of the country and some countries like Northern Italy were unlucky and clearly started broadcasting communities very early.

“It started here a little later.”

Some of the British arriving at London’s Heathrow Airport were “shocked” at the few medical checks that were carried out.

A passenger, Mete Coban, a 27-year-old charity pioneer and Hackney councilor, who returned to Heathrow Airport from the US on March 16, said: “Given how seriously authorities treated Covid-19 in the US, I was shocked at how little the British authorities seemed to care when they arrived at Heathrow.

“I think it’s completely irresponsible that we don’t at least guide people about social distance and provide medical advice.”

Professor Neil Ferguson, director of the MRC Center for Global Infectious Disease Analysis at Imperial College London, spoke through a video link about the coronavirus outbreak at the Science and Technology Committee in the House of Commons in late March

Professor Neil Ferguson, director of the MRC Center for Global Infectious Disease Analysis at Imperial College London, spoke through a video link about the coronavirus outbreak at the Science and Technology Committee in the House of Commons in late March

Professor Neil Ferguson, director of the MRC Center for Global Infectious Disease Analysis at Imperial College London, spoke through a video link about the coronavirus outbreak at the Science and Technology Committee in the House of Commons in late March

Chloe Sloggett, a 24-year-old beautician from North London who arrived at Heathrow with her fiancé Toby Hastie on Saturday, said there were far more medical checks in Cambodia and Malaysia than upon her arrival in the UK.

Ms. Sloggett, who has been isolating herself since she returned home, said, “As we walked through Heathrow, posters explaining the do’s and don’ts and signs were two meters away, but no one forced it.

“We checked our temperature twice in Phnom Penh (Cambodia) and then again in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), but nothing when we landed in the UK.”

Meanwhile, Marc Wilson, a 33-year-old Southampton postman, said he was also confused by a lack of advice on what to do upon his arrival from Guatemala via Mexico and the US.

Professor Ferguson also said of Andrew Marr that he was unable to predict exactly when the lockdown would be lifted.

A passenger, Mete Coban (left), 27, who returned to Heathrow Airport from the US on March 16, said it is “completely irresponsible that we do not at least guide people about social distance.”

“When the lockdown ends depends on what happens to this epidemic – how quickly the number of cases decreases,” he said.

“After this effort, there’s no point in releasing a lockdown at a point where case numbers are still high and will pop up even faster than we’ve seen before.

“We want the number of cases to hit rock bottom where we can start replacing other measures with the most intrusive and economically costly aspects of the current lockdown.

“Almost certainly, those additional measures will consist of massively ramped up tests, again looking for case contacts and stopping transmission chains.

“That’s only possible if we only have a few things a day than we have now.”

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