The SNP says urgent health measures must be introduced to prevent the international transmission of Covid-19, including the closure of UK borders from all but essential travel.
Joanna Cherry QC, the SNP’s shadow home secretary at Westminster, accused the UK Government of “repeating the same mistakes” on travel and quarantining throughout the pandemic.
UK ministers are considering introducing a requirement for international arrivals to have a negative coronavirus test before travelling to Britain to tackle surging cases.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has faced calls to strengthen border protections to prevent the arrival of new cases, particularly of new and concerning strains.
And Cherry said the Home Office must bring the UK into line with other countries.
She said: “It is deeply concerning that the Home Secretary is repeating the same mistakes we’ve seen the UK Government make throughout this crisis by failing to introduce effective restrictions and health measures at the UK border to prevent the transmission of covid-19 and its new strains.
“The UK Government was far too slow to act in the spring, allowing hundreds of thousands of international visitors to enter the country in the middle of a global pandemic without effective measures in place. It seems as though they haven’t learnt a thing.”
Cherry also called on Home Secretary Priti Patel to “get a grip of the situation”.
“No one wants to restrict international travel but it is a necessary part of mitigating against transmission,” she said.
“The UK Government must stop all but essential travel, and introduce a far more rigorous system of health checks and quarantining at the border. This is a matter of urgency and the Home Secretary must get a grip of the situation.
“Other countries in Europe and across the world have already introduced these measures – leaving the UK as an outlier.
“For people to have confidence in the UK Government’s approach, it is crucial they put these long-overdue measures in place and set out how this will form part of a considered exit strategy.”
During the first lockdown, the UK Government argued against introducing border restrictions while the prevalence of coronavirus was so high, with experts arguing it would do little to bring down infection rates.
A quarantine period, however, was introduced in June after the first peak and when cases were more under control.
Currently arrivals into the UK from nations that are not exempted under the travel corridor programme have to isolate for 10 days.
Senior UK cabinet minister Michael Gove said announcements will come in the days ahead on “how we will make sure that our ports and airports are safe”.
“It is already the case that there are significant restrictions on people coming into this country and of course we’re stressing that nobody should be travelling abroad,” he told ITV’s Good Morning Britain.
Gove said during his series of broadcast interviews that he is in discussions with the devolved UK administrations about the terms of the announcement affecting international visitors.
It comes as concerns continue to mount over the new Covid variant which has been detected in South Africa which is deemed to be even more transmissible than the variant discovered in the UK.
There are fears the Covid variant may not be as effective against the South Africa variant.
A Department for Transport spokesman said: “Protecting public health in the UK is of the utmost importance and we are looking at what additional measures could be taken with regards to international travel.”