A leading government coronavirus adviser said that the Delta Covid variant could have been stopped in its tracks if the UK had enforced stricter border measures.
The chair of the UK’s advisory group for new and emerging respiratory virus threats (Netvag) said that “stronger border measures may have delayed […] even have prevented” the Delta variant from arriving in the UK from India, where it was first detected.
Professor Sir Peter Horby told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show that Netvag’s modelling of the Delta variant suggests that it is far more transmissable than previously prevalent strains of the virus, and predicted that the “variant of concern” will soon spread across Europe.
“It’s clear that the Delta variant started to transmit within the UK because of introductions from other countries,” Prof Horby added.
It comes as the Mail reported a government source said Boris Johnson is set to “push Merkel” to drop plans for an EU-wide quarantine on UK travellers when the pair meet in London on Friday.
The German Chancellor has called on EU countries to force all UK travellers to quarantine on arrival, amid fears over the Delta Covid-19 variant.
French president Emmanuel Macron has joined Merkel’s push to keep the Delta variant out, and said it was necessary for all of Europe to be “vigilant”.
Their frosty reception came as transport secretary Grant Shapps on Thursday confirmed that from 4am Wednesday 30 June, arrivals to the UK from a small handful of countries including Malta, Ibiza, and some Caribbean Islands including Barbados will not have to quarantine.
Shapps also said the government was considering removing the quarantine period for fully vaccinated people travelling from amber list countries, “showing a real sign of progress.”
All over-18s in the UK were able to get a Covid-19 vaccine without an appointment at hundreds of walk-in centres across the country this weekend, as 234,441 people received their first dose on Saturday, according to the latest government data.
Half of all adults aged between 18 and 29 in England will have received their first dose of the vaccine by the end of Sunday, according to the NHS – indicating a strong take-up amongst under 30s, who were first offered the jab three weeks ago.
More than 4.4m people in the UK have now received their first dose of the vaccine – 84 per cent of the adult population, the NHS update until the end of Saturday said.
18,270 new coronavirus infections were recorded in the UK on Saturday – the highest figure in four months, up 20 per cent from Friday.
The ratio of deaths to cases is extremely low, however, with 28 coronavirus deaths recorded on Saturday.