UK: Johnson’s complacency blamed for failure to remove lockdown
By Hamed Chapman
London, (The Muslim News): Boris Johnson is being blamed for being responsible himself in causing the delay in removing the remaining legal Covid restrictions by failing to put India earlier on the travel red list and effectively allowing the Delta [Indian] variant to manifest in the UK.
“We are now in the grip of a delta wave that is spreading with speed, and our constituents face further restrictions. The Prime Minister’s complacency allowed this variant to reach our shores,” said shadow Health Secretary, Jonathan Ashworth.
“It is reported that Ministers first learned that the delta variant was in the UK on 1 April. The Government red-listed Pakistan and Bangladesh on 9 April, but did not red-list India until 23 April, by which point 20,000 people had arrived from India.”
“Our borders were as secure as a sieve, and all because the Prime Minister wanted a photo call with Prime Minister Modi,” Ashworth told MPs, referring to Johnson’s plans for a high-profile trade visit to India before being forced to eventually call it off.
Earlier House of Commons speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle expressed his outrage at Johnson for holding a Downing Street briefing to announce a delay of up to four weeks in the final roadmap step that had been dubbed as ‘Freedom Day’.
“When Parliament is in session, the most important announcements of Government policy should be made in the first instance, in Parliament,” Hoyle said citing the Government’s own ministerial code.
While the Prime Minister held his press conference after returning from a Nato meeting in Brussels, Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, was forced to deputise for him in the House of Commons to make a statement on the delay.
Johnson confirmed that the Delta variant is now “spreading faster than the third wave predicted” and that the country was seeing cases “growing by about 64 per cent per week, and in the worst affected areas, it’s doubling every week.”
No mention was made of wanting extra time in delaying the removal of final restriction from June 21 to July 19 to try to bring the pandemic back under control but rather to allow up to two-thirds of the population to have a second vaccine jab.
“Once the adults of this country have been overwhelmingly vaccinated, which is what we can achieve in a short space of time, we will be in a far stronger position to keep hospitalisations down, to live with this disease, and to complete our cautious but irreversible roadmap to freedom,” he told the media.
The delay comes extracts from the minutes of the latest Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) meeting last Wednesday were published warning that “if further lockdown easing had gone ahead in England as planned on 21 June, it could not guarantee the NHS would not be overwhelmed by a third wave.”
In Parliament, Hancock confirmed that the Delta variant “now accounts for over 90% of cases across the country”, that it “spreads more easily and there is evidence that the risk of hospitalisation is higher than for the previously dominant alpha (Kent) variant.”
Several speakers in Parliament, including notably former Government chief whip Mark Harper as well as Jeremy Hunt who agreed with the speaker’s criticism of Johnson, saying that “it should be the Prime Minister who is here this evening.”
At the Prime Minister’s briefing, Chief Medical Oficer for England, Prof Chris Whitty, warned that the four-week delay does not eliminate the risk of a third wave, saying the virus that “will be with us forever” and the country “will have to live with this virus – which will continue to cause severe infections and kill people – for the rest of our lives.”
It had been hoped to “remove all legal limits on social contact” from next week but as it stands limits will remain on the number of people who can mix indoors and outdoors with theatres, cinemas, sports events, clubs and pubs having to still operate within limited capacities.
Although the number of guests at a wedding will no longer be limited to 30, venues and hosts will have to do a risk assessment to ensure social distancing can take place with similar rules applying to wakes.
[Photo: The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, gives a press conference concerning the postponing easing of Covid-19 Lockdown restrictions at 09 Downing Street. Picture by Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street]
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