Great Britain

Covid news - live: No 10 defends ‘delay’ on India travel ban as experts warn against Monday’s rules easing

Coronavirus in numbers

Downing Street has defended its timing in blocking travel from India amid fears the spread of the Indian variant could become a barrier in the government’s road map to easing lockdown restrictions.

India was added to the UK’s “red” travel ban list on 23 April, despite the country having reported more than 100,000 cases a day by 5 April.

Questioned on why the government did not block travel from India sooner, a government spokesperson maintained that No 10 had acted quickly.

“We took precautionary action to ban travel from India on 23 April, six days before this variant was put under investigation and two weeks before it was labelled as of concern,” the spokesperson told the BBC.

“Prior to India being placed on the red list in April anyone coming to the UK had to test negative and quarantine for 10 days,” they said.

It comes as a growing body of health experts have warned against Monday’s planned easing of coronavirus restrictions amid the spread of the variant.

After the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) concluded there is a “realistic possibility” the Indian variant is 50% more transmissible than the deadly Kent variant, experts with the advisory body called for England’s unlocking to be delayed.

“If we are following data not dates, it is surprising that the road map is going ahead without adjustment,” Sage’s Professor Susan Michie told the Sunday Times.

Meanwhile, the British Medical Association has also sounded the alarm about moving forward with the easing of Covid restrictions.

On Friday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson admitted that the B.1.617.2 Indian variant could threaten the final stage of lockdown easing in June. However, he insisted Monday’s easing of restrictions would go ahead as planned.

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Experts urge caution in easing of Covid restrictions amid spread of Indian variant

A growing body of coronavirus experts have suggested that the Government should consider delaying its plans to ease coronavirus lockdown restrictions on Monday amid the spread of the Indian variant.

After the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) concluded there is a “realistic possibility” the Indian variant is 50% more transmissible than the deadly Kent variant, experts with the advisory body urged caution in the easing of rules.

“If we are following data not dates, it is surprising that the road map is going ahead without adjustment,” Sage’s Professor Susan Michie told the Sunday Times.

Meanwhile, the British Medical Association has also raised concerns about the easing of restrictions.

“It is a real worry that when further measures lift on 17 May, the majority of younger people, who are often highly socially mobile and could therefore be most at risk of a more infectious strain, are not yet vaccinated,” the BMA’s Dr Richard Jarvis told the BBC on Saturday.

On Friday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson admitted that the spread of the Indian variant could imperil plans for the final stage of lockdown easing in June. However, he insisted Monday’s easing of restrictions would go ahead as planned.

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Downing Street defends timing of India travel ban

Downing Street has defended its timing in blocking travel from India amid fears over the spread of the Indian coronavirus variant.

India was added to the UK’s “red” travel ban list on 23 April, despite the country having reported more than 100,000 cases a day at the start of that month.

Questioned on why the government did not move quicker to block travel from India, a government spokesperson maintained that No 10 had acted quickly.

“We took precautionary action to ban travel from India on 23 April, six days before this variant was put under investigation and two weeks before it was labelled as of concern,” the spokesperson told the BBC.

The further noted that “prior to India being placed on the red list in April anyone coming to the UK had to test negative and quarantine for 10 days”.

It comes as the Government faces growing calls to reconsider plans for an easing of lockdown restrictions on Monday, with a growing body of experts urging caution.

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Good morning and welcome to The Independent’s live blog tracking the latest on the coronavirus pandemic as Boris Johnson faces calls to delay England’s lifting of lockdown restrictions amid fears over the spread of the Indian variant.

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