Covid: Boris Johnson says Europe’s third wave likely to ‘wash up on UK shores’

‘Previous experience has taught us that, when a wave hits our friends, it washes up on our shores as well’

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Monday 22 March 2021 14:47 GMT
Europe sees a 3rd wave of COVID-19, propelled by variants

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Louise Thomas

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The UK is poised to “feel the effects” of rising Covid-19 infections on the continent, Boris Johnson is warning.

“You can see sadly there is a third wave underway,” the prime minister said, as lockdowns are introduced in several EU countries.

“And people in this country should be under no illusions that previous experience has taught us that, when a wave hits our friends, I’m afraid it washes up on our shores as well.”

The comment is likely to raise eyebrows as EU nations say the growing case numbers are largely the so-called Kent variant – which has spread from the UK to the rest of Europe.

The prime minister also sought to calm tensions threatening to lead to so-called ‘vaccine wars’ – saying he was “reassured” that the EU did not “want to see blockades”.

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And, condemning the violent scenes at a protest in Bristol, as “unacceptable”, he said: “People obviously have a right to protest in this country, but they should protest peacefully and legally.”

Mr Johnson insisted that – despite the worsening picture across the Channel – “we will just bash on the with the roadmap we set out, with the programme we’ve got”.

“We’re getting on with our vaccination programme as fast as we can, but a vaccination campaign and developing vaccines, rolling them out – these are international projects and they require international co-operation,” he added.

On the Brussels’ threat to block exports to the UK – ahead of likely talks with national leaders in the coming days – Mr Johnson played down the conflict.

EU officials have briefed that the bloc would reject any UK request for AstraZeneca vaccines produced at a factory in the Netherlands, ahead of a crunch meeting of leaders on Thursday.

There is growing anger that about 10m vaccine doses have been exported from plants in EU member states to the UK, largely by Pfizer-BioNTech.

Meanwhile, under the deal struck by London with AstraZeneca, when the company partnered with Oxford University, its UK-produced supplies have not been shared with the EU.

There is talk activating Article 122 of the EU’s treaty, last used in the 1970s oil crisis, allowing the bloc to take emergency measures to control the distribution of essential goods.

But Mr Johnson, speaking at BAE Systems in Preston, said: “I’m reassured by talking to EU partners over the last few months that they don’t want to see blockades, I think that’s very important.

“Clearly what matters to us in the UK is we get on with the rollout of the vaccine programme. I think we’ve now done over half the adults in the country, which is very good news.

“We’re on course to do everybody in priority groups 1-4, they’ve been done, but groups 1-9, all the over 50s, by April 15 – and then we’ll just bash on with the roadmap we’ve set out.”

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