Keir Starmer has slammed the UK’s “pathetic” border policy after a top Tory claimed there is “no way of knowing” if today’s lockdown delay could have been averted.
Health Minister Edward Argar claimed it was “hypothetical” to suggest England could have been saved from a surge in cases if it put India on the red list earlier.
But Labour ’s leader told LBC the delay is “because of the Government’s pathetic borders policy. Absolutely pathetic.”
It comes as Boris Johnson is expected to announce a four-week delay to the planned June 21 lockdown easing at a Downing Street press conference tonight.
It is true that the B.1.617.2 variant first seen in India – now known as Delta – was only deemed “of concern” on May 7.
But the similar B.1.617.1 strain was deemed “under investigation” way back on April 1.
Ministers were told about the strain but didn’t tell the public for two weeks.
And it was only another week later, on April 23, that India was placed on the red list.
Despite this, Health Minister Edward Argar today claimed “there’s no way of knowing” if closing the borders earlier could have saved the end of lockdown.
“It’s a hypothetical. It’s possible, but there’s no way of knowing that,” he told Sky News.
“I believe we took swift and decisive action – we have some of the toughest border regimes in the world when it comes to tackling coronavirus .
“And I think we acted swiftly and decisively when that was put on the list of variants of concern.”
Keir Starmer today said he would decide whether to back a delay after speaking to government advisors Prof Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance this morning.
But he called for “wriggle room” over weddings, amid reports Boris Johnson will lift the 30-person cap to save families’ nuptials.
“The Delta variant is why we are not going to open up on June 21 I don’t think,” he told LBC.
“That is rampant because of the pathetic border policy of the Government I’m afraid.
“There are just too many amateur mistakes along the way.”
He added: “Isn’t there a collective frustration about this? Here we are, June 21 was supposed to be freedom day and why are we not going to hit it?
“It looks like we’re not. Answer – because of the Government’s pathetic borders policy.
“Absolutely pathetic. They didn’t introduce hotel quarantine policy until I think February of this year and then only 1%.
“Then we went through this ridiculous red, amber, green, when loads of countries were moved to the amber list.
“At the beginning of that they said that means you can go on holiday there, then no no no it doesn’t, it’s only if its absolutely necessary.
“Then you get another member of the government popping up saying, ‘well I think holidays are essential’. Nobody knows where they are on that.”
He blasted the “inexplicable delay” to putting India onto the red list.
He added: “That is why we are here. The Delta variant has got in because of the Government’s pathetic control of the borders.”
Discussion about this post