Opening England’s borders to let millions of people arriving from the US and Europe avoid quarantine could risk importations of new Covid variants that might wreak havoc with unlocking domestic restrictions, ministers have been warned.
After the government announced plans to recognise vaccination status if people were fully jabbed in the US and most of Europe, Labour said it could make the country more susceptible to being overwhelmed by another Delta-like variant.
The shadow transport secretary, criticised ministers’ “recklessness” and said evidence needed to be published proving the move would not lead to another variant running “rampant through the country” and damaging “the effort of the British public”.
Alexandre Holroyd, the deputy in the National Assembly representing French citizens in northern Europe, called the decision to exclude travellers from his country absurd, tweeting:
“Decisions made without any science or logic. Kafka goes on holiday with Godot.”
Meanwhile the number of new Covid cases in the UK rose by more than 4,000 – putting to an end the seven-day streak of falling figures that had given ministers and their advisers cause for optimism.
Prof Christina Pagel, director of the clinical operational research unit at UCL, said given that fully vaccinated people could still catch and pass on the virus, she was worried about variants that were better at infecting people who were already vaccinated.
She said a “worrying new variant could emerge” in the US or Europe; or if travel were less inhibited between those places and the UK “a variant that emerges anywhere will spread everywhere”.
“We should be taking advantage of the fact that we are an island and having much more control over potential new variants coming in.”