PM: 'Increasing confidence' vaccines work against variants, including Indian strain

19 May 2021, 12:32 | Updated: 19 May 2021, 15:18

By Daisy Stephens

There is “increasing confidence” that Covid-19 vaccines are effective against all current variants, including the Indian strain, Boris Johnson has said.

Opening Prime Minister's Questions, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer asked Mr Johnson if the single biggest threat to hitting the 21 June unlocking date is the risk of new variants entering the UK.

Mr Johnson replied in the Commons: "I certainly think that is one of the issues that we must face."

He added: "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."

The prime minister thanked people living in Bolton, Blackburn and other places for coming forward in "record numbers" to get vaccinated, adding: "I think the numbers have doubled in Bolton alone."

Sir Keir countered by asking why travel restrictions had been weakened in the face of the variants, with 170 countries moving onto the ‘amber’ list.

The PM said the UK has "one of the strongest border regimes anywhere in the world", adding 43 countries are on the red list.

He added: "If you travel to an amber list country for any emergency, any extreme reason that you have to, when you come back, you not only have to pay for all the tests but you have to self-isolate for 10 days - we will invigilate, we are invigilating it, and people who fail to obey the quarantine can face fines of up to £10,000."

The government has recently come under fire for inconsistent messaging surrounding international travel.

Sir Keir said that "absolute clarity" was needed on whether people should travel to amber list countries, and said: "The government has lost control of the messaging."

Boris Johnson replied in the Commons: "We are trying to move away from endlessly legislating for everything and to rely on guidance and asking people to do the right thing.

"It is very, very clear - you should not be going to an amber list country except for some extreme circumstance, such as the serious illness of a family member.

"You should not be going to an amber list country on holiday."