The Government still doesn’t know whether the Covid travel traffic light system, hotel quarantine or home isolation actually worked despite huge costs and public disruption, MPs have warned.
The Public Accounts Committee says despite spending at least £486 million on the international travel “traffic light system” during the pandemic ministers haven’t yet been able to establish whether it was worth it.
The Government changed the travel rules at least 10 times between February 2021 and January 2022, but gave the travel industry little time to adapt.
The report said: “Managing cross-border travel was an essential part of health measures introduced by Government during the pandemic.
“Despite spending at least £486 million on implementing its traffic light system to manage travel during the pandemic, Government did not track its spending on managing cross-border travel or set clear objectives, so does not know whether the system worked or whether the cost was worth the disruption caused.”
The traffic light system was set up in May 2021, it set the rules for arrivals from every country depending on whether it was on the red, amber or green list.
The taxpayer subsidised £329 million of the total £757 million quarantine service cost, though it was meant to be self-funding with the rest passed to people travelling.
This was despite the cost to individuals increasing to more than £2,200 for a single adult over 10 days in August 2021.
Only 2% of hotel quarantined guests tested positive.
The PAC claimed the Government does not know the health impact of its policies.
Dame Meg Hillier, chair of the PAC, said: “The approach to border controls and quarantine caused huge confusion and disruption with 10 changes in a year.
“And now we can see that it is not clear what this achieved.
“We can be clear on one thing – the cost to the taxpayer in subsidising expensive quarantine hotels, and more millions of taxpayers’ money blown on measures with no apparent plan or reasoning and precious few checks or proof that it was working to protect public health.
“We don’t have time and it is not enough for Government to feed these failures into its delayed public inquiry – it is not learning lessons fast enough from the pandemic and is missing opportunities to react quickly to future emergencies or even current events like new variants of Covid or the spread of Monkeypox.”