Tuesday, July 16

Concerns raised over risk of new Covid variant as travel restrictions eased

Boris Johnson risks allowing a new Covid variant to run rampant through the country by further easing restrictions for EU and US travellers, Labour has claimed. England is to allow people visiting from the US and the EU who are fully vaccinated against coronavirus to enter without the need to quarantine.

The new rules will be in place from 4am on Monday, with Transport Secretary Grant Shapps expressing hopes that the US will become more relaxed about allowing Britons to visit in time.

But following an encouraging few days in which Covid-19 case numbers in the UK have fallen from above 50,000 on July 17 to 27,734 by 9am on Wednesday, Labour sounded warnings over the impact of the travel changes. Shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon said: The Government’s track record on our borders has been one of recklessness and confusion.

They are in danger of continuing this by setting out changes in policy, applying to England only, without the scientific data and criteria we need to make sure we don’t see another Johnson variant run rampant through the country and damage the effort of the British public. We want to see international travel opened up safely.

Ministers need to be clear on what progress has been made on reaching reciprocal agreements for Brits travelling abroad particularly regarding the NHS app being accepted as proof of Covid status. We also need a clear green and red list and the country-by-country data to back it up.

The Welsh Government said it regrets the move to remove the quarantine requirement in England, but added it would be ineffective to have different rules for Wales. Ministers in Northern Ireland will consider their position on the charge at Thursday’s meeting of the powersharing executive.

Currently, only travellers who have received two doses of a vaccine in the UK are permitted to enter from an amber country – such as the US and most of the EU without self-isolating for 10 days, except those returning from France.