Caroline Lucas warns that the virus is spreading ahead of 21 June re-opening date.
She notes that the government is hurdling towards what they are calling ‘freedom day’, ignoring the advice of scientists saying that we are heading towards a third wave.
‘Over the past two weeks, cases have been increasing and the all-important R rate in England is now above one, which means the virus is spreading. Although we’ve had one day with no recorded deaths from Covid-19, week by week cases are rising and so are hospital admissions.
Let’s be clear. This is an emerging crisis entirely of the Government’s making. Its own scientific advisers, SAGE, and Independent SAGE, both warned that a failure to properly control borders would result in new variants of the virus being imported into the UK.
The Health Secretary says we need to be ‘vigilant’ – a pity he and the prime minister weren’t more vigilant back in April when they delayed for three weeks before taking action.
It’s hard to think of a more grossly negligent response. Not only that, it’s taken until this week for passengers arriving from Red List countries to be separated from other arrivals at Heathrow.
Dither, delay and constantly choosing the easy option rather than the one the crisis demands sums up this Government’s response to Covid-19.
We saw that in spring last year and again in the autumn. There is a persistent and deeply worrying failure to learn from past mistakes, and these mistakes cost lives.
Tens of thousands of people died in the second wave of Covid-19 because Boris Johnson refused to lockdown in late September. Even if the vaccine has broken the link between the virus and serious illness, the NHS will still face huge disruption in a third wave and the millions waiting for treatment will have to wait even longer.
More than a million people have symptoms of long Covid, many of whom were not seriously ill when they had the virus.
Fewer than half of all adults have received both doses of the vaccine – and a single dose offers only limited protection against the Delta variant.
Any government with a serious plan for tackling this spread would, at the very least, be hitting the pause button, allowing time for more adults to be fully vaccinated and so better protected.
Businesses also urgently need clarity about what might be permitted, and the reassurance of support in the event of some restrictions staying in force for longer.
Instead, what we get is endless self-congratulatory pats on the back about the successful vaccine rollout so far. The people behind this – NHS current and former staff, public health teams and volunteers – have been brilliant.
But if the Government thinks vaccines are our ‘freedom pass’ and nothing else is needed, it is living in fantasy land.’