Labour has laid the blame for the delay to the 21st June easing of restrictions – now touted for 19th July – at the door of Boris Johnson.
In a major speech on UK Covid border policy today, Labour’s shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds branded the Prime Minister “negligent” and dubbed the Delta variant “the Johnson variant”. Thomas-Symonds argued that the PM’s “refusal to take tough decisions has left Britain facing weeks more under restrictions.” Johnson ignored warnings about the deteriorating Covid situation in India for weeks before moving the country from the ‘amber’ list to the ‘red’ list, which requires all arrivals from to quarantine in a hotel.
Labour first called for a “comprehensive hotel quarantine system” in January and repeatedly warned that the biggest threat to the UK’s exit from restrictions is the risk of importing new variants into the country.
The party will force another vote in the House of Commons on the issue today. As part of the vote, Labour is calling for the ‘amber’ travel list to be scrapped, as reports suggest over 50,000 people are travelling into the UK daily, with only a tiny percentage going into hotel quarantine. The party is also demanding the long-promised aviation sector support package from ministers.
On the Prime Minister’s announcement on Monday evening, Thomas-Symonds is said:
“The delay is happening because a new variant first identified overseas was allowed to take hold in this country.
“There is one reason and one reason only that this happened: lax border measures by Conservative ministers.
“They have allowed the Delta variant, first identified in India to take hold here.
“Let’s call it what it is. Let’s put the blame where it should lie.
“In this country – it’s the Johnson Variant.
“The Prime Minister’s negligence and incompetence, his refusal to take tough decisions have left Britain facing weeks more of restrictions – and yet more uncertainty.
“It is a crystal clear metaphor for how Boris Johnson and his government work: they spend so much time posturing and posing over being tough at the borders, yet when it was a matter of keeping our country safe and the variants out, they failed.
“People across the country have every right to be angry about being let down so badly.
“We are an island country. Like New Zealand and Australia, our border protections should have been one of our natural strengths throughout this pandemic.
“Instead, it has been one of our greatest weaknesses.”
On the delays in putting India on the red list, Thomas-Symonds said:
“Pakistan and Bangladesh were added on 9 April.
“Yet the Prime Minister waited 14 days to add India.
“Those 14 days have resulted in delays to our freedoms, untold damage to our economy and risks to thousands of jobs.
“Civil Aviation Authority figures suggest that at least 20,000 passengers who could have been infected with the Delta arrived from India between 2 and 23 April – that is a staggering number.
“It was unbelievably reckless that on his list of priorities Boris Johnson put having his photograph taken with Prime Minister Modi ahead of protecting the British people.
“Nobody is blaming people who travelled when they were permitted to do so; the blame lies with the Prime Minister for his unjustifiable delay.
“It was a fortnight of failure and we are all suffering the consequences.”