Published: 06:53, 28 February 2021
| Updated: 08:07, 28 February 2021
The Home Office has rejected claims by Nigel Farage that 12 asylum seekers who arrived at Dover yesterday all tested positive for Covid.
The former Ukip leader posted the allegation on Twitter yesterday, demanding that Home Secretary Priti Patel 'gets a grip.' The claim was retweeted more than 20,000 times.
The Home Office has now taken the unusual step of publicly responding to the tweet - initially saying none of the 12 had tested positive, before later revising the figure to one.
A spokesman said: "Border Force has dealt with a number of small boat incidents today. Contrary to reports claiming multiple arrivals tested positive for coronavirus, just one person has tested positive and will be dealt with in line with public health guidance.
"People should claim asylum in the first safe country they reach and not risk their lives making these dangerous crossings. We are continuing to pursue the criminals behind these illegal crossings."
In contrast to Mr Farage's claim, it has been shared 142 times.
Mr Farage, who is now leader of the Reform Party, later added: "Dunkirk has one of the highest Covid rates in France. Cases have fallen all over Kent but they are now rising in the Dover area as migrants arrive with the virus.
"Border Force are having to wear full PPE to protect themselves. Why is this Government importing Coronavirus?'
Today's Telegraph reports the first cases of the so-called Kent variant are believed to have reached Dunkirk through truck drivers arriving from Britain. The city of 90,000 now has the highest rate of Covid-19 in the country.
Its rate has risen from 658 to 901 cases per 100,000 of the population in a week, more than four times the national average.
Four small boats carrying 87 people including children made the dangerous Channel crossing into the UK on Saturday.
The department could not confirm the nationalities or ages of those involved.
French authorities also prevented two attempted crossings involving a further 51 people on Saturday.
The Home Office said: "“We are continuing to pursue the criminals behind these illegal crossings.
“Police patrols on French beaches and enhanced intelligence sharing between our security and law enforcement agencies has helped to prevent crossings.
“The Government is also returning illegal migrants who have no right to stay in the UK to safe countries.
“In January, new rules were introduced which make asylum claims inadmissible where people have travelled through safe countries to get to the UK through illegal routes.”