The increase in cases of the Indian variant is worrying. The government’s sluggish response in limiting international travel and its lack of support for self-isolating might form a road block in the recovery plan.
Layla Moran MP Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus responded to the latest figures from Public Health England which show cases of the Indian variant have more than doubled in the past week to 1,313. She said:
“The latest figures are deeply concerning and suggest the government failed to act swiftly enough to prevent the Indian variant being imported into the UK.
“Ministers only added India to the red list several weeks after this mutation was identified as a variant of concern, by which time it was too late.
“Our cross-party report has called for countries to be added to the ‘red list’ as soon as variants of concern are identified, and for quarantine rules to then come into force with immediate effect.
“The government must rethink its flawed approach to international travel and focus on preventing the importation of variants, which scientists agree pose the biggest risk to our hard-won progress against Covid-19.”
Dr Susan Hopkins, Covid-19 Strategic Response Director at Public Health England (PHE), said: “Cases of this variant are rising in the community and we are continuously monitoring its spread and severity to ensure we take rapid public health action.We need to act collectively and responsibly to ensure that variants do not impact on the progress we have all made to drive down levels of Covid-19 and the increased freedom that brings. That means you should pay attention to and act on the local health advice in your area. Testing and isolating when required not only limits spread, it helps us to better understand how the variant behaves in the community.
PHE rightly suggests the importance of testing and isolating. Sarah Reed and Mike Brewer write in today’s Guardian: “If people don’t get paid to self-isolate, UK Covid cases could rise again. The threat of new variants means a new approach is urgently needed to help those self-isolating stay off work.
“The government has failed to provide adequate support for people self-isolating during the pandemic. Too many still fear they won’t be able to afford time off work should they need to stay at home. Compliance with self-isolation has been worryingly low, with some surveys showing that only around a half of people with Covid-19 symptoms stick to the legal requirement to self-isolate. Evidence suggests that financial barriers are a key reason people don’t comply, but the government has failed to fix this blind spot by protecting people from lost earnings when they are required to isolate.
The UK is “anxious” about the Indian COVID variant and the government is “ruling nothing out” when it comes to tackling its spread, the prime minister has said.
The Prime minister might be nervous, but why has the government been so slow to tighten our borders?
And surely government support for self-isolation could be “ruled-in”?