March 30, 2023

UK Covid live news: Starmer questions Johnson about confusing travel advice amid Indian variant concerns

Latest updates: PMQs comes after experts say lockdown end date in the balance due to...

Latest updates: PMQs comes after experts say lockdown end date in the balance due to new variant as ministers accused of causing travel confusion

  • Most Covid patients in East Lancs hospital had jab, says council leader
  • Travel confusion risks letting in more Covid variants, says Starmer
  • England lockdown end date ‘very much in the balance’, warns expert
  • Covid laid bare existing weaknesses in UK government, says NAO
  • Global coronavirus updates – live

1.26pm BST

Here is my colleague Haroon Siddique and Peter Walker’s story about PMQs.

Related: Travel confusion risks letting in more Covid variants, says Starmer

Ministers have been accused of using “confused and contradictory” language over foreign travel, with Keir Starmer using prime minister’s questions to say this risks allowing more new variants of coronavirus into the country.

Amid particular criticism about seemingly contradictory guidance on travel to amber list countries, the Labour leader told Boris Johnson he had “lost control of the messaging”.

1.22pm BST

This was the first PMQs since the elections less than two weeks ago that saw Labour suffer a wretched defeat in Hartlepool, and less awful but still very poor results in the English council elections. Boris Johnson’s own opinion poll ratings continue to rise, and Sir Keir Starmer’s are sinking. In the circumstances Johnson might have expected that today he would be enjoying a victory lap. Starmer did not pull off a clear win, but he more than held his own and given the wider dynamics in play, that must count as something of a result.

Starmer started with a gentle opener (‘Does the PM agree that new variants are the biggest threat to re-opening?’ Of course, everyone does) and from there he proceeded to precise, incriminating questions that Johnson could not or would not answer. Why is government making it easier to visit amber list countries? How many people are arriving from them every day? It was the sort of interrogation that Starmer does best, and Johnson was on the defensive throughout. You could tell he was in difficulty because by answer three he was resorting to the ‘it’s your job to support the government’ line – a poor argument to deploy against someone who’s actual job title is leader of the opposition.

We’ve looked at the data again this morning and I can tell the house we have increasing confidence that vaccines are effective against all variants, including the Indian variant.

I don’t think that [Blackford] does justice to crofters, to farmers across the country and in Scotland as well because I think he grossly underestimates their ability to do great things with our free trade deals, to export Scottish beef around the world. Why doesn’t he believe in what the people of Scotland can do?

Why is he so frightened of free trade? I think there’s a massive opportunity for Scotland and for the whole of the UK and he should seize it and be proud of it …

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