Labour has called plans to significantly ease restrictions for millions of travellers “reckless”, saying the move could lead to the importation of another more infectious Covid variant that could wreak havoc.
Concerns were raised after the Guardian revelado ministers were poised to recognise the double-jabbed status of people if they were vaccinated in the US or the EU, allowing many expats living in amber list countries to visit families and friends in England without the need to quarantine.
A meeting to sign off the proposals is scheduled for Wednesday morning, with an announcement expected later in the day, though government sources stressed it was not yet a done deal.
Labour’s deputy leader, Angela Rayner, said she understood people wanted to “get back to normal” and to be able to go on holiday, but she called the reported plans “reckless”.
“We know that the Delta variant came into this country and delayed the lifting of some of the restrictions and caused infections here,” she told Sky News.
She said the government’s delay in putting India on the red list because of Boris Johnson’s refusal to cancel a trip to the country to make a trade announcement had allowed the variant to seed faster in the UK. The prime minister was eventually forced to delay his final stage of unlocking initially planned for 21 June by four weeks.
Rayner said ministers should be basing the decision to let in millions more people on “proper data-driven analysis” and urged them to join forces with other countries to develop an internationally recognised vaccine passport.
She also pointed out people who are double-jabbed could still catch Covid – the most notable recent example being the health secretary, Sajid Javid – and said it was “crucial as well” to ensure that all those arriving in the UK were tested.
“We believe that, at the moment, the government hasn’t done enough to safeguard our borders,” Rayner said.
Her criticism was echoed by the shadow home secretary, Nick Thomas-Symonds, who said the traffic light system that grades countries according to their case, vaccine and variant rate needed to be overhauled.
“All too often changes have been chaotic, badly planned and dangerous, causing confusion for the industry and travellers," él dijo.
Airlines, sin emabargo, welcomed the move to open up international travel to more double-vaccinated passengers.
Shai Weiss, chief executive of Virgin Atlantic, said the reports were encouraging but that the US should also be moved to the UK’s green list. Él agregó: “The UK is already falling behind US and EU and a continued overly cautious approach towards international travel will further impact economic recovery and the 500,000 UK jobs that are at stake.”
EasyJet’s chief executive, Johan Lundgren, told LBC the change were right but would come “a little bit too late” and also warned the high costs of PCR testing, which will remain mandatory, would put people off travelling to the UK.
Despite the UK’s keenness for a reciprocal agreement, Washington is keeping in place strict rules that will severely limit the number of people taking a transatlantic flight.
The White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, said this week that advice to those thinking of travelling abroad will stay the same. It tells Americans not to travel to the UK and bars any non-US citizens who have been in the UK 14 days before their flight from crossing the border because of the prevalence of the Delta variant.