Boris Johnson warns of second wave of coronavirus from Europe

Prime minister defends controversial quarantine on travellers from Spain and says similar measures could be imposed on further countries

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Tuesday 28 July 2020 13:16 BST
Boris Johnson warns of second wave of coronavirus from Europe

Boris Johnson has warned of a “second wave” of coronavirus coming from Europe and said he is ready to impose new restrictions on movements from further countries if necessary.

The prime minister was speaking just days after imposing a controversial 14-day quarantine on holiday-makers returning from Spain, denounced as "unjust" by the country's prime minister.

He gave credence to reports that ministers are considering cutting the minimum self-isolation period to 10 days by introducing an anitgen test at eight days and allowing those found negative to return to normal life two days later, saying the government was "always looking at ways in which we can mitigate the impact of the quarantine".

Speaking during a visit to Nottingham to publicise a cycling initiative, Mr Johnson defended the government's response to the spike in coronavirus cases in parts of Spain, saying: “What we have to do is take swift and decisive action where we think that the risks are starting to bubble up again.

“Let’s be absolutely clear about what’s happening in Europe, amongst some of our European friends, I’m afraid you are starting to see in some places the signs of a second wave of the pandemic.”

Amid speculation that Belgium, France or Germany may be the next countries to be removed from the list of exemptions from quarantine, the PM said it was up to individuals to decide whether they want to take the risk of going abroad in the present circumstances.

“These are decisions for families, for individuals, about where they want to go,” he said.

Mr Johnson said the quarantine measures were aimed at stopping cases being brought in to the UK.

“It’s vital that when people are coming back from abroad, if they are coming back from a place where I’m afraid there is another outbreak, they must go into quarantine.

“That’s why we have taken the action that we have and we will continue, throughout the summer, to take such action where it is necessary.”

Asked about reports the 14-day quarantine period could be reduced, Mr Johnson said: “We are always looking at ways in which we can mitigate the impact of the quarantine, try to help people, try to make sure that the science is working to help travellers and holidaymakers.

“At the moment you have got to stick with the guidance that we are giving, we have given the guidance now about Spain and about some other places around the world.

“I’m afraid if we do see signs of a second wave in other countries it is really our job, our duty, to act swiftly and decisively to stop … travellers coming back from those places seeding the disease here in the UK.”

Holiday-makers leave Mallorca after the announcement of a quarantine

The PM expressed "every sympathy" with local government leaders and residents of Leicester but said the local lockdown imposed in the Midlands city could not be lifted until a review of its impact on a flare-up of Covid-19 cases had been completed.

“I have every sympathy for local leaders who want their area out of lockdown, I can understand their instincts," he said.

“But we have to look at the big picture, we have to look at the national situation and, of course, we need to look at the health of the people of Leicester as well.

“They’ve been making a great effort to get the incidents down, the review is going on in the course of the next few days as you know, let’s hope we can make progress there.

“But the priority - and I think the mayor (Peter Soulsby) and local MPs would agree with this - the priority has got to be people’s health and getting the disease under control.

“Particularly now as we can see what’s happening amongst some of our European friends, where they’ve got it starting to bubble up again.”

The PM said the UK has to be “vigilant” regarding the threat of a second wave of Covid-19.

Mr Johnson said: “Where you can do local easing, then of course you should, but we’ll see what the review says.

“The most important thing is for everybody in all communities to heed the advice, to follow the advice, not to be spreading it accidentally and get it right down, and we’ll be able to ease the restrictions across the country.

“But clearly we now face, I’m afraid, the threat of a second wave in other parts of Europe and we just have to be vigilant and we have to be very mindful."

Responding to the PM's comments, the chair of the All-Parliamentary Party Group on Coronavirus, Liberal Democrat leadership contender Layla Moran, said: "With growing signs of a second wave of this deadly pandemic in Europe, there is no time to waste in learning the lessons from the first. The government's complacent approach earlier this year cost lives, we cannot afford for the same mistakes to be made again.

"Urgent action is needed to improve the test and trace system and put in place a clear strategy for dealing with a second spike. The prime minister must implement the recommendations of the cross-party inquiry being held this summer to help our NHS and care homes cope."

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