Travel from India to the UK is not going to be possible in the foreseeable future, it became clear as Boris Johnson set out a five-point plan of “living with the virus”.
Speaking during a live broadcast from 10 Downing Street on Monday evening, he said: “We will maintain tough border controls including the red list.”
This means that Indian nationals are effectively barred from coming to the UK unless they are residents returning home. Indian-origin British nationals trapped in India can return but have to quarantine in designated hotels for 10 days at a cost of £2,000.
Boris said that a final decision on lifting most lockdown restrictions from July 19 will be taken on July 12.
But he appears to have gone against medical opinion from some of the most senior Indian-origin doctors in the country and decided to bring lockdown to an end from July 19, even though he acknowledged the number of infections from the Delta variant will continue to rise.
On Monday, a further 27,334 cases were reported across the UK, alongside another nine deaths within 28 days of a positive test. By July 19, the daily rate of infections could reach 50,000, Boris conceded, adding, “Sadly, there will be more deaths from Covid”.
The Prime Minister was accused of being guided by politics than science.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chairman of the British Medical Association which represents all doctors in the UK, said: “We believe that it makes no sense to stop wearing face masks amongst the public in closed public settings such as public transport.
“We know that face masks are proven to reduce the spread of this infection if worn by everyone around you, including yourself. And as a time when we have exceptional high levels of cases, we cannot understand why we would knowingly want people to become infected.”
He was backed by Dr Nikki Kanani, medical director of Primary Care for NHS England, who said she would continue to wear a mask if they are advised but no longer compulsory “because they are effective”.
Covid has touched even Prince William’s wife, Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, who went to Wimbledon on Friday to watch Jamie Murray play in a men’s doubles match. Her NHS app has told her she must isolate for 10 days because she sat near someone who later tested positive for Covid.
Boris wants to change the rules so that after July 19, only those who actually test positive for the virus will have to isolate but those who are double jabbed will not have to do so.
Boris is being driven by what people are calling “the jihadi wing of the Conservative party”, which wants restrictions removed irrespective of the cost.
He admitted he was taking a risk: “I want to stress from the outset that this pandemic is far from over — it certainly won’t be over by the 19th.”
The radicals in the Tory party, egged on by extremist commentators, take the view that the vaccination roll out will keep the number of deaths to a level they consider acceptable.
Boris admitted as much: “In these circumstances, we must take a careful and a balanced decision. And there’s only one reason why we can contemplate going ahead to step four, in circumstances where we would normally be locking down further. And that’s because of the continuing effectiveness of the vaccine rollout.”
He set out his dilemma: “We have to balance the risks: the risks of the disease, which the vaccines have reduced, but very far from eliminated, and the risks of continuing with legally enforced restrictions that inevitably take their toll on people’s lives and livelihoods, on people’s health and mental health.
“And we must be honest with ourselves, that if we can’t reopen our society in the next few weeks, when we will be helped by the arrival of summer and by the school holidays, then we must ask ourselves, ‘When we’ll be able to return to normal?’ And to those who say we should delay again, the alternative to that is to open up in winter, when the virus will have an advantage, or not at all this year.”