'Frightened to Death' Johnson Put France on Amber-Plus List in Fear of Beta Variant Spread – Report
© REUTERS / TOBY MELVILLEBritain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson is embraced by Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid before speaking to the workers as he visits a JCB factory during his general election campaign in Uttoxeter, Britain, December 10, 2019
© REUTERS / TOBY MELVILLE
From this week onwards, fully vaccinated Britons do not need to quarantine following their arrival from amber-listed states. However, the UK government made a last-minute decision not to apply the rule adjustment to France. The apparent U-turn has angered many.
UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid cautioned Prime Minister Boris Johnson not to exempt France from COVID-19 quarantine rules for double-jabbed Britons like other amber-listed countries, sources have told the Mail on Sunday.
The much-criticised decision not to release Britons arriving from France from 10-day quarantine if they have received both doses of the vaccine was reportedly made during a government meeting on 16 July. The gathering was attended by Johnson, Javid, and several other health advisers shortly before it turned out that the health secretary had been infected with the coronavirus. Javid tested positive on 17 July after taking a rapid lateral flow test.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, who was left to defend the government’s decision from attacks from angry British holiday-makers and industry moguls, such as EasyJet CEO Johan Lundgren, was reportedly absent from the meeting.
“Saj frightened the PM to death. Shapps was so p****d off that the decision was taken without him being present”, the insider claimed.
Transport Secretary Shapps previously urged Britons whose travel plans were upset by the government’s decision “to check their terms and conditions as well as the travel restrictions abroad before they go”. The comment apparently frustrated even more people.
“No 10 and the Department of Health must now be feeling pretty f****** stupid after the backlash”, the source added.
Javid Goes ‘Native’ at New Job?
The scare is said to have been caused by Javid’s “overreaction’ to concerns that the AstraZeneca vaccine might not be very effective against the Beta variant, which has spread across France and its overseas territories of Reunion and Mayotte.
The variant, first detected in South Africa, is feared to be some 50% more contagious than the original COVID-19 strain. Nevertheless, new research has suggested that a single dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine has an 83% effectiveness of stopping severe COVID-19 cases caused by the Beta strain.
© REUTERS / PETER NICHOLLSBritain's Health Secretary Sajid Javid walks on Downing Street in London, Britain, July 14, 2021
Britain's Health Secretary Sajid Javid walks on Downing Street in London, Britain, July 14, 2021
© REUTERS / PETER NICHOLLS
Some Downing Street officials were allegedly surprised by Javid’s extreme cautiousness when it came to quarantine controls for those returning from France. Javid was generally believed to be less of an alarmist than his scandal-ridden predecessor Matt Hancock, the paper says, but the source says that the new health secretary has now been “captured” by his officials and “already appears to have gone native”.
According to the Mail on Sunday, there is also a genuine fear in the government that there is a risk of someone becoming double-infected with both the Beta and Delta strains, with the latter currently being dominant in the UK. The situation may potentially lead to dramatic transmissibility and resistance to vaccines, health advisers reportedly fear.
However, backlash from industry, including from EasyJet’s Lundgren, who slammed the government for the “confusion and uncertainty” it created with its “falling apart” traffic light system, may soon force ministers to walk back their decision to move France to the amber-plus list travel category, the Mail on Sunday understands.
PM Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak have now been in self-isolation since Sajid Javid’s COVID test came back positive following their 16 July meeting. Downing Street initially announced that officials would rather take part in a pilot scheme with daily tests and skip the quarantine, but the prime minister decided to follow the same self-isolation rules as ordinary Brits.