Labour says ending amber list quarantine now for people vaccinated in US and EU would be ‘reckless’
Labour has described the plan to let people who have been fully vaccinated in the US and EU avoid quarantine if arriving from amber list countries, which are expected to be approved by ministers today, as “reckless”. This is what Angela Rayner, the party’s deputy leader, told Sky News this morning when asked about the proposals. She said:
At the moment, everybody wants to go on holiday and get back to normal as quickly as possible, but this is reckless.
We know that the Delta variant came into this country and delayed the lifting of some of the restrictions and caused infections here. We need to make sure that we’ve got proper data-driven analysis, and that we look at an international passport for vaccines.
And we also know that people who have had the vaccine, of course, can still get the virus, so a testing regime is very important and crucial as well.
Rayner also said it was not clear how the vaccine status of people who have been vaccinated in the US would be checked. And she said travellers from abroad could be bringing new variants to the UK.
So therefore we believe that at the moment the government hasn’t done enough to safeguard our borders, and we haven’t got an internationally recognised vaccine passport, which is what the government said they were working towards. So it does feel reckless.
Johnson rejects claims review of Official Secrets Act poses threat to journalists
For journalists, perhaps the most interesting part of Boris Johnson’s LBC interview was what he said about the threat posed to the media by the government’s revierw of the Official Secrets Act.
- Johnson rejected claims that the government’s review of the Officials Secrets Act posed a threat to journalists. Journalists have been warning strongly about the possible consequences of the review (pdf) because it proposes treating the disclosure of secret information by the press as the same or worse than spying, and it is not including proposals for a specific public interest defence. In the interview Johnson said that he did not want to do anything that would interfere with the “normal process” of journalism. He said:
I don’t want to have a world in which people are prosecuted for doing what they think is their public duty …
What we want to do is make sure that we don’t do anything to interrupt the operation of good journalism and bringing new and important facts into the public domain …
I do not for one minute believe [the Official Secrets Act review] is going to do anything to interrupt the normal process by which … the search light of the British press will continue to shine on every crevice of [life].
Johnson also said that he was “full of admiration for the way journalists generally conduct themselves” and he did not think there was a general problem with journalists putting national security at risk. He said:
I think, actually, editors and journalists, on the whole, do behave with great responsibility when it comes to stuff that they think should not be put into the public domain because of the damage it could do to national security or to public health or for any other reason.
He also defended the right of journalists to obtain information from what he described as “tainted sources”. He said:
A lot of the best and most important stories, whether they’re Watergate or Thalidomide or whatever, come from tainted sources, let me put it like that. Or come from a source that has no business in putting that out into the public domain … One man’s treacherous betrayer of confidences and irresponsible leaker is another man’s whistleblower.
However Johnson also failed to explain why, if these are his views, the Home Office is going ahead with a review that journalists believe would pose a threat to some of the normal reporting that they do. He was not challenged on the detail of the Home Office plan, but when asked about it, he stressed that it was a “consultation” and that the proposals relating to journalists were part of a “general review of the Official Secrets Act”.
For a good account of what is proposed by the review, do read this Guardian comment article – which also enjoys a wonderful byline, by Duncan Campbell and Duncan Campbell.
Johnson says it is ‘far, far too early’ to say pandemic has passed
Good morning. Boris Johnson has recorded a proper interview with Nick Ferrari from LBC, and it has been running this morning. Ferrari did not manage to get the PM to commit any conspicuous acts of hard news, but that is relatively normal when senior political figures are interviewed, and there were plenty of lines that were relatively interesting. Here are the main points from the interview on Covid.
We’ve seen some encouraging recent data. There’s no question about that. But it is far, far too early to make, to draw any general conclusions …
The most important thing is for people to recognise that the current situation still calls for a lot of caution and for people just to remember that the virus is still out there, that a lot of people have got it.
The interview was recorded yesterday, and so Johnson was not asked about the unnamed minister whose gung-ho optimism has provided the Daily Mail with its splash. But his comments do serve as a rebuttal to his anonymous colleague. The minister had told the paper:
It is all over bar the shouting, but no one has noticed. Of course we have to guard against the emergence of some terrible new variant. But otherwise Covid is on the point of becoming something you live with.
It drops into the background, but it does not change anything terribly – maybe you have to take a test once in a while …
Factually we are [at the point where herd immunity has been achieved]. We are there. It’s just a fact, as around 90% of adults have had a first dose of a vaccine. We are there.
- Johnson said there was no chance of the government postponing plans to end isolation for fully vaccinated people who have been pinged from Monday 16 August. The government has already said that, from the 16th, fully vaccinated people will no longer have to isolate for 10 days if they have been in contact with someone testing positive. Instead they will be advised to take a test instead to check they are negative. When cases were still rising sharply there were suggestions that this date might get put back. But Johnson firmly ruled that out. He said:
August 16 is nailed on – there has never been any question of a review date for August 16.
I’m very pleased that this is a country that now has the highest proportion of vaccinated adults of any country in the world – that is enabling us to make the economic progress we are.
- He said that the UK could see a “very, very strong recovery”. He said:
Jobs are coming back and you’ll see this data from the IMF today. It is clear that, if we’re sensible and we continue to take a cautious approach, we can see a very, very strong recovery …
You are seeing the job numbers increasing and I think that the rest of this year – there will still be bumps on the road – but I think you will see a story of steady economic recovery.
Essentially, in making this point, Johnson was just echoing the conclusions of the IMF report yesterday that said Britain is expected to have the joint highest growth, with the US, of all G7 countries in 2021.
No, I think that I would put it the other way round and say that if you get one you are doing something massively positive for yourself, for your family.
There is very little formally on the agenda for the day. But, as my colleague Aubrey Allegretti reports, ministers are meeting today and may agree plans to let people who have been fully vaccinated in the US and EU avoid quarantine if arriving from amber list countries.
Politics Live has been a mix of Covid and non-Covid news recently and that will probably be the case today. For more coronavirus developments, do follow our global Covid live blog.
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