PIERS Morgan today blasted a minister’s “staggering” lack of knowledge as he failed to say whether the Government had signed any hotel quarantine deals, with just days to go before they start.
The Good Morning Britain host got into a fiery row with Health Minister Ed Agar over the new quarantine regime which is due to start in a week’s time.
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Anyone coming in from at least 30 ‘red list’ countries must isolate for 10 days inside their hotel – and they can only be released with two negative tests.
It’s designed to stop the more transmissible mutant variants of Covid from grabbing hold in Britain and spreading like wildfire.
Today Piers gave the minister a fierce dressing down for failing to know the answers to his questions.
Piers snapped: “Why are you letting people in when you haven’t got quarantine established yet?”
Mr Argar replied that there is quarantine established for everyone coming into the country – but Piers insisted that “we know most people aren’t doing that.”
Ministers first announced the quarantine policy for hotels weeks ago, but it won’t come into effect until Feb 15.
People will be met at the airport and transported directly into quarantine.
Piers said the delay “makes no sense unless the reality is the government has simply not prepared us again properly by having hotels set up ready to accept people.”
He asked him at least EIGHT times whether any hotels have signed up for quarantine deals.
Piers blasted: “I read yesterday none! Seems pretty vital if you’re bringing in enforced quarantine and you can’t even tell us if you’ve got any ready to go.
“Speculation I’ve read is there aren’t any and that’s why it’s not starting for another week when hundreds of thousands are pouring in here from countries with variant.”
The minister refused to comment on speculation about the deals, and said he wasn’t in charge of it, but Piers hit back: “I asked how many hotels you’ve got and you don’t know the answer.
“You’re the health minister and you don’t know if you’ve got any hotels.”
“I’ve asked you if we have single hotel, and you haven’t got a clue.
“Sorry to be disparaging but pretty shameful that you don’t have a clue if we’ve even got one.”
Piers says he’s “completely bemused” and “staggering” that “you as health minister say ‘I haven’t got a clue’.”
The final details of the plans are still yet to be unveiled by Government ministers.
Today Mr Agar claimed the Government was looking into the idea of using GPS tracking on phones to make sure that people were obeying quarantine laws.
SAGE experts cited GPS tracking as a way of increasing compliance with isolation, with fears many are simply ignoring the rules once they get to Britain.
The minister played down fears of the South Africa variant, saying there were just 147 cases of the new strain in the country, and rapid postcode testing was being offered to crack down on the strain.
Mr Agar also sought to reassure the nation that the vaccines do work on it to tackle the most serious illnesses – including stopping hospitalisations and deaths.
However, South Africa has paused the rollout of the AstraZeneca jab today after studies showed it would still result in mild illness for some.
Professor Salim Abdool Karim, head of South Africa’s Ministerial Advisory Committee on Covid-19, said he does not know if the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine will be effective in “preventing severe disease”.
He told Times Radio: “Our problem is we don’t know if the AstraZeneca vaccine will be effective in preventing severe disease and hospitalisation in the population.
“That’s why we felt we should hold until that information becomes available.”
He added: “We are planning on rolling it out, this is just a temporary delay, but the way in which we’re going to roll it out is going to be different.
“We’re taking a two-step approach, the first is to vaccinate probably around 100,000 individuals and assess what the hospitalisation rates are.