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COVID-19: People in quarantine hotels to be told today when they can leave after travel red list scrapped

People being held in quarantine hotels will be told today when they can leave, an official has said.

It follows the scrapping of the UK’s travel red list, which came into effect in England at 4am.

Eleven African countries had been placed on it to try to slow the spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid told the Commons that the measure was becoming “less effective in slowing the incursion”.

Jonathan Mogford, who is in charge of quarantine at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), told MPs on the Commons Transport Committee that “we want to release people early”.

He added: “We are sorting out the arrangements for that as quickly as possible.”

Mr Mogford said, however, that officials “need to make sure we are not releasing COVID or Omicron-positive guests immediately”.

The number of positive infections has been “unprecedentedly high” among travellers arriving from the red list countries including South Africa and Nigeria, he said.

Latest figures suggest “nearly 5% of people in the hotels are positive”.

There have been “roughly 5,000 guests through in this round of red listing”, Mr Mogford continued.

That suggests about 250 arrivals have tested positive.

Asked about queries regarding poor food, he said: “We share the concerns of what we have seen on social media and those have been picked up with the hotels directly.”

The head of the UKHSA, Dr Jenny Harries, said quarantine had been a “delaying tactic” and had given the UK “time to prepare” for the Omicron variant.

Meanwhile, former cabinet minister and Labour MP Ben Bradshaw has claimed the Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, told him the travel testing regime was “pointless”.

Travellers entering the UK must take a pre-departure test and self-isolate until they receive a negative result from a post-arrival test.

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Mr Bradshaw said: “The health minister said to me in the House yesterday that he thought they were pointless and the transport secretary told me in the division lobby last night that he thought they were pointless too.”

But Downing Street insisted the measure had a purpose.

The testing requirements “remain important in helping to prevent additional Omicron from seeding in the United Kingdom”, the prime minister’s official spokesman said.

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