Covid hotels to house people coming into the UK during the pandemic cost £400m, and it is not clear if they were effective, according to a new report by a watchdog.
The National Audit Office (NAO) released a study this week, claiming it was unknown whether they stopped new variants from entering the country and spreading.
There were also new concerns raised about fraud related to extortionate costs of PPE, testing, and waste.
According to the Times, rules for entering the country during the pandemic changed ten times, while the cost of private testing often surpassed £500.
The NAO said in its report that travellers from so-called high risk countries were subject to quarantine, under a scheme which more than 200,000 people forced to isolate. With each family costing £367 to accommodate, the scheme cost more than £750m, with the taxpayer footing almost £400m.
The Cabinet Office told City A.M the pandemic was an “unprecedented challenge” and it acted to save lives, stressing the report says measures imposed on the borders “bought vital time for our domestic response to new and concerning variants, contributing to the national effort to contain and manage the virus.”
The report highlighted that changing rules and “minimal” oversight led to some companies capitalising on selling personal protective equipment and testing.
According to the report, border measures cost almost £500m which was branded a “confusing mishmash”, by Dame Meg Hillier, chairwoman of the Public Accounts Committee.
“Monitoring those entering the country relied on goodwill, rather than good data. Government never really got a handle on the numbers, nor whether its border measures were working effectively”, she said.
Most arriving in the UK had to pay for a test, with firms charing between £15 and £525, charged by almost 370 different firms.
The NAO had previously found that nearly half of the PPE bought by the government had been wasted.
A spokesperson for the department of Health and Social Care defended the measures, saying it “delivered over 19.8 billion items of PPE to frontline staff to keep them safe.
“Having too much PPE was preferable to having too little in the face of an unpredictable and dangerous virus, given this was essential to keep our NHS open and protect as many people as possible.
“Now we are confident we have sufficient PPE to cover any future Covid demands, we are taking decisive action to save up to £93 million of taxpayers’ money by reducing storage costs for excess stock – enough to employ around 1,850 nurses for a year.”