Travellers suspected of having swine flu should be barred from entering the country, a Birmingham MP has told ministers.
John Hemming (Lib Dem Yardley) said airlines were preventing people leaving Britain if they were infected with the H1N1 virus, but there were no restrictions on people coming into the country.
He was speaking in the Commons after health secretary Andy Burnham announced the launch of a new national flu service allowing sufferers to be diagnosed over the telephone.
Trained operators would provide victims with an authorisation number, which a friend would be able to use to pick up anti-viral drugs for them, Mr Burnham said.
The aim is to prevent GP surgeries and hospitals becoming swamped with sufferers.
The Health Protection Agency revealed last Friday that the number of new cases had shot up by an estimated 55,000 in just one week. New figures also showed that the West Midlands is no longer one of the worst hit areas of the country. The East Midlands, north east of England and London all have a higher rate than the West Midlands.
Mr Hemming told MPs: “We are in the strange situation where the Government has done nothing to stop people flying into the country, while airlines have turned around and stopped people flying out with swine flu.”
Mr Burnham told him that the World Health Organisation had advised ministers that travel restrictions would not be useful.
He was also quizzed by Worcestershire MP Richard Taylor (Ind Wyre Forest), who said it was “incomprehensible” that MPs were about to begin a 12-week summer recess when they would not be able to scrutinise the work of government.
Mr Burnham said regional health authorities had been instructed to give their local MPs regular updates on the situation in their area, including the number of new cases.
He told MPs the National Pandemic Flu Service would be launched, offering telephone and online help to take pressure off GPs and other frontline health services. It will be in operation by the end of the week “subject to testing”.
This meant swine flu victims no longer needed to ring their GP, Mr Burnham said. “They can either answer questions via the new website, or ring the call centre service, where trained staff will be able to assess them over the phone.”
Mr Burnham said vaccines would be available from August with enough for 30 million people by the end of the year.
He said: “For the vast majority, swine flu remains a mild and self-limiting illness.”
It was understandable people were becoming more concerned as cases rose.
Pregnant women should continue “normal activities” such as going to work, travelling on public transport and attending events and family gatherings, he said.
But to reduce their risk of infection and complications they should wash hands frequently using soap, avoid contact with people known to have swine flu and making early contact with a GP if they suspected having the virus.