Variants and vaccines

Variants and vaccines

 Ministers announced tough new restrictions on travel into the UK this week, as concerns mounted over new coronavirus strains. The “travel corridors” allowing people from certain countries to enter Britain without the need to quarantine were closed from Monday, and all travel from South America has now been banned. The travel ban – which came into force on Friday and also applies to Portugal and Cape Verde – was a response to the emergence of a new Covid variant identified in Brazil. Scientists have raised concerns that the strain – as well as another variant circulating in South Africa – could threaten the efficacy of vaccines.

Although the UK recorded 1,820 deaths on Wednesday – its highest daily total of the pandemic – case numbers were beginning to fall as lockdown measures took effect and the vaccine roll-out continued. By Wednesday, the UK had inoculated 4.2 million people; in England, over-70s were due to begin receiving offers of vaccines this week. The roll-out has also been rapid in Northern Ireland, but slightly less quick in Wales and Scotland.

You’d think a government elected on a pledge to “take back control” of Britain’s borders would show some urgency when there was actually a need to do so, said The Independent. Not this one. When news of a highly infectious new Covid strain in southeast England emerged last month, Brazil quickly banned all UK flights. Yet when Brazil’s own new variant started wreaking havoc in South America, Boris Johnson only acted after five days of dither and delay. It has been a “shambles”, said the Daily Mail. Britons have endured “police harassment for sitting on park benches during lockdown”. Yet only this week did the Government introduce the requirement that arrivals into the UK must show a negative Covid test before being allowed entry. It’s only down to sheer luck that the “super-strength” Brazilian strain hasn’t yet been detected on British soil.

Actually, the PM’s reluctance to close our borders is justified, said The Daily Telegraph. While a wariness of anything that could jeopardise the vaccine is understandable, the fact is that Britain “relies on global links for its prosperity”. Johnson must now seek to reopen our borders at the earliest opportunity.