Grant Shapps stands behind 10-year jail sentences for those lying at UK border
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said on Wednesday that the 10-year jail sentence for those trying to conceal travel from a "red list" country at the UK border is "appropriate".
Shapps defended the introduction of the jail sentences which came into force on Monday.
The new measures force UK and Irish residents arriving in England from 33 "red list" countries to pay up to £1,750 to quarantine for 10 days in government-managed hotel rooms.
Anyone who tries to conceal where they have been travelling could end up with a 10-year jail sentence.
The punishment has caused concern among MPs and former judges but Shapps defended the restrictions and said it was a fair approach to try to avoid the Covid-19 virus and its variants from entering the country.
"What we're dealing with now are the variants and, with variants, we cannot risk it in these final stages - where we've got the vaccine rolled out - that we might end up with a difficulty from variations, although we think so far that we'll be able to take care of them through the vaccines," he told Sky News.
"And, because of that, we think... things like prison sentences for lying about being in one of those red list countries are appropriate."
He also added that there are currently less than 1,000 people entering the country from “red list” locations.
"By next week, when people will have to pay to do this, £1,750 package on top of their costs of getting here via an indirect route, I think we'll find the numbers are actually pretty small," the transport secretary added.
He also told Sky News that it was unclear if Britons will be able to travel abroad for the summer holidays this year: "I'm afraid I can't give you a definitive 'will there or will there not be' the opportunity to take holidays this next year, either at home or abroad”
Speaking on BBC Radio 4 on Wednesday he added: “People shouldn’t be booking holidays right now – not domestically or internationally.”
Shapps also announced that PM Boris Johnson was set to lay out how the UK plans to lift lockdown restrictions on 22 February but said it was not clear that holidays would be included in those plans.