Johnson ‘squandered’ chance to end Covid restrictions by allowing Delta strain into UK via lax travel curbs – Starmer

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Labour leader Keir Starmer has accused the UK prime minister of leaving the borders open long enough to allow the Delta, or ‘Indian’, Covid variant to enter the country, sparking a spike in cases and delays to lockdown easing.

Criticising Boris Johnson’s “indecision” in delaying putting India on the government’s travel ‘red list’, Starmer on Wednesday accused the PM of having “blown” chances for a quicker end to Covid restrictions. The opposition leader said that had that decision been made earlier, it could have prevented both the spreading of the Delta variant in the UK, as well as the lockdown extension.

“The British people did their bit, by following the rules and getting vaccinated. But the prime minister squandered it by letting a new variant into the country. That was not inevitable, it was the consequence of his indecision,” the Labour leader told Parliament.

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Starmer claimed the Conservative government’s uncertainty around placing India, where the Delta variant was first detected, on the red list between early April and April 23 left the country vulnerable to the strain’s spread.

However, Johnson rebuked Starmer’s criticism, arguing that the government placed India on the list on April 23, days before the variant was officially identified.

According to data from Public Health England released on June 11, 90% of new Covid-19 cases in the UK are now the Delta variant. The strain has also been found to be 60% more contagious than other variants, making containing and tackling its spread an additional challenge.

As a result of the recent surge in Delta variant cases, Johnson on Monday announced an extension to England’s lockdown measures by up to four weeks. The final stage of the country’s Covid restrictions is provisionally expected to be lifted on June 23. Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, this week also announced an extension to lockdown measures there until later next month.

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