Here comes the Indian “scariant”, says Allison Pearson in The Daily Telegraph. Brits who had allowed themselves to relax and make plans for the first time in more than a year suddenly felt a panicky twinge: “Hang on – maybe we shouldn’t. There’s that Indian variant…” But just in case you’re worrying about a “tsunami of Covid patients” in viral hotspots such as Bolton and Blackburn, where vaccine hesitancy is irksomely high, “I make it 27” from the NHS data. Meanwhile, more than 37 million of us have had at least one jab. I say to hell with the plague bell, but I doubt anyone will listen. “The clinically depressed may wish to look away now.”
This isn’t a case of “a small number of idiots” ruining it for everyone else, says Marina Hyde in The Guardian. Unless you’re talking about the people in Downing Street. On Monday, the very day people were allowed to travel again – with countries arranged into green, amber and red categories – Matt Hancock said people should definitely not travel to countries on the amber list. So what’s the point of that group? “Is our travel policy some kind of dare?” Now Boris Johnson is calling for Brits to show common sense. Let’s not forget that No 10 let at least 20,000 – “TWENTY THOUSAND” – people enter the UK from India while dawdling over a travel ban. Was that “not a moment for common sense”?
I think I know why the PM took so long over that decision, tweeted Sky News’s Ed Conway. India is one of the key trade partners Britain is looking to tie up post-Brexit, so the PM was loath to slap it on the “red list” before his planned trip there in April. Weeks passed, the body count in India rose and the trip was cancelled. By then it was too late to stop the variant, which is spreading just as quickly as the Kent strain. And we know how that turned out.
The last people who should lose out from this bungling are ordinary holidaymaking Brits, says Freddie Sayers in UnHerd. Anyone who has jumped through the hoops to book an amber destination “must really feel it necessary”. If you want to go to Italy for a week you have to take no fewer than five Covid-19 tests: on departure, on arrival, before returning to the UK, then one after two days and another after eight days while in quarantine at home. That’s at least £310 in test kits, not to mention a test-and-trace team calling and asking you to flush a toilet to prove you’re at home. After a horrific year, normal folk have priced that into their overdue getaways – a bitter pill to swallow when the privileged jet set have been swanning off to Dubai uninhibited. If the government pulls a reverse ferret now, it’s “not just incompetent, it’s reckless”.
Check the Foreign Office’s red, amber and green lists here.