One in five people investigated for suspected breaches of quarantine after arriving back in the UK could not be found by police, official figures showed yesterday (Wed).
Police discovered some 380 people had given the wrong address when they went to their property after being alerted to potential breaches by Public Health England (PHE) and could not take any further action.
Another 629 were out when officers attended, according to the National Police Chief Council (NPCC) figures. Under the protocol, police visited a second time but they were still not in so no further police action was taken and the information passed back to PHE and Border Force.
The disclosure raises questions over the enforcement of test-and-trace, which is seen as critical to combating the increasing pandemic.
But NPCC chairman Martin Hewitt said it was “not the police's role to go searching” for the people, given that crime rates had largely returned to pre-Covid levels.
“We are very clear that we are supporting Covid regulations and the work against the virus, but we need to do that in a proportionate way. I don't think it's our responsibility to go looking for people in those circumstances,” he said.
The NPCC data showed that up to October 19, 4,518 cases investigated by the police found the person abiding by international travel quarantine rules. Another 284 were in breach but they were persuaded to obey the rules without being fined, and 125 were fined for failing to self-isolate.
The figures showed that just 258 penalty notices were issued between 15 June and 19 October for breaches of the face covering rules in England and Wales, of which 86 related to public transport.
Some 64 fines of £10,000 had been issued for breaches of rules barring gatherings of more than 30 people as Mr Hewitt pledged to crackdown on those who “blatantly disregard” the rules. “We won’t waste time with endless encouragement [to follow the rules,” he added.