Foreign visitors to the UK aged over 50 from outside the EU should be barred from Britain during the pandemic because of the increased risk of them putting extra strain on NHS, a think tank has proposed.
Migration Watch UK says there should be an age limit for foreign visitors until there is a vaccination for coronavirus.
It says it makes sense not to admit visitors who if they should fall ill with Coronavirus, would have a significant risk of needing hospital treatment.
The chance of hospital care increases with age from under five per cent for those aged under 50 to 10 per cent for those aged over 50 and 25 per cent for those in their 70s.
Migration Watch says the infection is now worldwide and is likely to spread rapidly in Asia, Latin America and Africa where public health and medical facilities are likely to struggle to cope.
Although air travel is currently significantly down, it warns that in recent years there have been nearly 14 million visitor admissions per year from outside the EU.
Nationals of around 50 countries, with a total population of around one billion, are currently entitled to travel to the UK without a visa which is granted on arrival and is valid for up to six months. These “non-visa nationals” account for nearly ten million of 14 million non-EEA visitor admissions.
Extending the requirement to apply in advance for visitor visa to nationals of these countries would allow an age limit to be applied to all non-EEA visitors, says Migration Watch.
It would allow the tourist industry to begin its recovery while protecting the NHS from additional pressures.
Alp Mehmet, Chairman of Migration Watch UK, said: “Until there is a vaccination against the Coronavirus its presence transforms the context for border controls.
“The Government must now work towards reviving the tourist industry while minimising any increased pressure on the NHS that might result.”
A Home Office spokesman said: “Our approach to tackling coronavirus is driven by the latest scientific and medical advice. In line with that advice to date, no changes have been required at the UK border.
“We are providing passengers at UK airports with information on symptoms and the social distancing processes.”