Boris Johnson warns UK will 'feel the effects' of Covid third wave

22 March 2021, 12:55 | Updated: 23 March 2021, 00:47

By Joe Cook

Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he expects the UK will "feel the effects" of the third wave of coronavirus currently under way in Europe.

In a warning to Brits, the PM told reporters: "I think one of the things worth stressing is that on the continent right now you can see, sadly, there is a third wave underway.

"People in this country should be under no illusions that previous experience has taught us that when a wave hits our friends, I am afraid it washes up on our shores as well.

"I expect that we will feel those effects in due course. That is why we are getting on with our vaccination program as fast as we can."

Mr Johnson's warning comes amidst an exponential growth of Covid cases across Europe, with multiple EU countries introducing tough new lockdown restrictions over the weekend.

Read more: Government struggling to defend six-month extension to lockdown powers

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However, Labour have accused the prime minister of being "frankly complacent about the threat of a third wave" and are calling for "a comprehensive hotel quarantine system now".

Reacting to the comments, Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Synmonds said: "It would not be inevitable if the government had listened to Labour and taken tougher action to protect our borders.

“It’s unacceptable that only one percent of international arrivals quarantine in a hotel. We need a comprehensive hotel quarantine system now, to help protect against a third wave and to safeguard the vaccine rollout.

"Ministers will only have themselves to blame if they do not act now.”

Read more: JCVI deputy chair calls for 'grown up' solution to EU vaccine crisis

Labour are calling for more people to be told to quarantine in hotel accommodation when arriving into the UK.
Labour are calling for more people to be told to quarantine in hotel accommodation when arriving into the UK. Picture: PA

Speaking on the trip to BAE Systems in Preston, the PM also stressed the importance of international co-operation in "developing vaccines [and] rolling them out".

The comments come at a time of heightened tensions between the EU and UK, ahead of a virtual meeting of European leaders on Thursday where they will discuss plans for a potential ban on vaccine exports from the bloc.

Last Wednesday, amidst a sluggish vaccination rollout, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen pledged to "use whatever tool we need" to make sure "Europe gets its fair share" of vaccines.

The prime minister is expected to speak with his EU counterparts this week in an attempt to stave off any export restrictions on the jabs, which reports suggest could delay the UK's vaccine rollout by up to two months.

Read more: Sir Keir Starmer: The EU shouldn't block vaccines entering UK

Watch: 'You're not prepared to answer': Nick Ferrari clashes with minister over lockdown power extension

EU Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen said Europe is "ready to use whatever tool we need" to get more vaccines.
EU Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen said Europe is "ready to use whatever tool we need" to get more vaccines. Picture: PA

Mr Johnson appeared to downplay the issue on Monday, telling reporters: "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 road map we've set out."

Read more: EU countries to resume use of Oxford jab after regulator says it's safe

The PM's spokesperson also said the government remains "confident" in vaccine supplies, when asked if any potential block of coronavirus jabs to the UK by the EU could delay when people receive their second dose.

"We have said throughout the vaccination programme that supplies will fluctuate, but we remain confident in our supplies," he told reporters.

"I would point to the fact that not only do we produce AstraZeneca vaccines here in the UK, but they are produced in other countries as well, and we remain confident in our supplies."

Read more: Covid-19 third wave 'inevitable' in the UK, warns epidemiologist

The third wave in Europe could have a significant impact on the possibility of foreign holidays for Brits this summer.

On Saturday, Professor Mike Tildesley, who advises the government as a member of SAGE, told LBC the chance of a having a holiday abroad is "extremely unlikely" following a surge in covid cases on the continent.

“The concern is of course what happens in the summer with international travel. We run the risk of potentially bringing more of these new variants into the country," he explained.

“And if it starts to spread more rapidly and the vaccines are less effective then we really have serious problems going forward."