Yvette Cooper, who chairs the home affairs committee, said it showed “huge gaps” in enforcement.

“There clearly isn’t any robust enforcement system,” she said. “That is very bad for public health and also very frustrating for all the people who are doing the right thing and abiding by the quarantine rules.”

Under the scheme, 1,500 quarantining people should be called each day by Public Health England, with police sent to any judged suspicious. 

However, Ms Cooper said that even then only 70,000 of the millions of passengers returning had been called, while 80,000 could not be reached by phone.

Three-quarters (3,216) of those contacted by police were found to be complying with the regulations, while some 218 were in breach of quarantine but no further action was taken because police “successfully encouraged them to self-isolate”, according to the NPCC.

Martin Hewitth, the NPCC chairman, said the system for checking quarantine was “never designed to be 100 per cent” or “foolproof”, adding that forces did not have the capacity to engage in hunts for people breaching the regulations, especially with crime having returned to pre-Covid levels.

“If you arrive at an address and, after a couple of visits, there is no answer, it might be people are out or that the address given was not right,” he said. “Our responsibility is to do that check and deal with that individual. If we are unable to get the answer, we feed that back into the triage centre run by UK border force. That is their responsibility.”

The NPCC also revealed that only about half of almost 19,000 Covid-19 fixed penalty notices have been paid on time. That means people now face prosecutions, adding to the pressure on courts where the suspension of trials has led to a 500,000 backlog in cases. 

Only 15 fines were issued by police for breaches of the “rule of six” (see video below) in the first week since its introduction. In the seven days from September 14, four were issued by Greater Manchester Police, seven by Lancashire Police, two by Leicestershire Police and two by West Yorkshire Police.

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