DEBBIE Abrahams, MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, has joined a cross-party group that is urging the Government to introduce stricter checks at airports.

The checks will aim to block Covid-19 being imported into the UK, including new variants that could evade current vaccines.

A report published by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG), of which Ms Abrahams is vice chair, has set out a series of recommendations to “ensure that the hard-won progress in tackling the virus is not lost and mistakes of the past are not repeated.”

Ms Abrahams who is also a former public health consultant, said the report is based on “evidence from expert witnesses, including Border Agency staff, who said that airports are becoming a “breeding ground” for the virus.”

According to witnesses’ testimonies people arriving from red, amber and green list countries are often mixing in overcrowded arrival halls.

Ms Abrahams added: “Notably, none of the witnesses questioned in the hearing said they would be prepared to travel internationally this summer.”

Lucy Moreton of the Immigration Services Union also told the MPs that border staff spot around 100 fake Covid test certificates a day, mostly if there is a spelling error, and that the current system is predominantly based on trust.

The APPG also heard from Professor Gabriel Scally, a former regional director of public health, who warned the number of cases of imported Covid mutations, such as the Indian variant, could be ten to twenty times higher than official data suggests.

He stated that only 5 to 10 per cent of PCR tests are sent to laboratories to check for variants and this can take a number of weeks, meaning the government’s current approach is equivalent to “shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted”.

The report by the cross-party group is recommending that Covid security is improved in arrival halls, which should be equipped with ventilation and adequate space to social distance. As far as possible, documentation should also be verified in advance of arriving in arrival halls, allowing travellers to board transport to quarantine facilities rapidly upon arrival.