More than 20,000 people may have arrived in the UK from India despite warnings of a new infectious Covid-19 variant, according to a new report.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been criticised for not banning travel from India sooner, with the emergence of the new strain threatening to delay the easing of restrictions on June 21.
It has emerged more 20,000 may have flew in from India before it was added to the UK’s red list of countries on April 23, the Sunday Times reported.
This is despite earlier concerns over the new strain, B.1.617.2, which is now set to become the most dominant in Britain.
PHE data has revealed at least 122 people brought the Indian variant to Britain from New Dehli and Mumbai between late March and the end of April.
They were allowed to self-isolate at home when they arrived in the UK instead of completing a hotel quarantine because the country was not on the red list.
A source involved in talks on stopping the highly infectious Indian variant said Johnson may have delayed putting India on the red list for political reasons.
The PM was due to fly there on a post-Brexit trade trip on April 25, which was cancelled.
The source told the Sunday Times: ‘It’s very clear that we should have closed the border to India earlier and that Boris did not do so because he didn’t want to offend Modi (Indian Prime Minister).’
The Indian variant is now the dominant strain in four areas in England and four Brits have died so far after catching it.
England has reported the variant cases as of March 15 – 1,255 of B.1.617.2, compared to 35 in Scotland, 11 in Wales and 12 in Northern Ireland.
The hotspots are predominantly located in the North West and London, but health officials in Bedford have also raised alarm at an apparent spike.
In Blackburn and Bolton, the B.1.617.2 variant is thought to have driven a doubling of infections over the past seven days.
The strain is believed to be more transmittable than the Kent variant which caused Covid-19 cases to spike at the start of the year but it’s hoped the UK’s successful vaccination programme will have an effect in fighting it.
Scientists do not think the Indian variant is resistant to vaccines.
Johnson admitted on Thursday the final stage of lockdown easing next month could be affected by the variant but said they needed more data to determine this.
Senior government sources have warned Brits may not find out if the final step of lockdown easing can go ahead until ‘a week before’ June 21, the Sunday Times added.
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