'For now we are okay' with India not on 'red list', minister tells LBC

18 April 2021, 12:13 | Updated: 18 April 2021, 19:31

By Maddie Goodfellow

Environment Minister George Eustice has told LBC "for now we are okay" with India not on the 'red travel list' despite a 'doubly-mutated' coronavirus variant first identified there being found in the UK.

Whilst speaking to LBC's Swarbrick on Sunday show, Environment Minister George Eustice was questioned over why India is not yet on the UK's red list of countries to travel to.

The minister explained: "These things are kept under regular review, and there are around 30 countries currently on the list.

"I know that Grant Shapps and the other members of the Covid sub-committee that look at this will review it.

"And if we get scientific advice that India should be on the red list then we will not hesitate to do that. But at the moment, we haven't had such a recommendation."

He continued: "Obviously, we take a highly precautionary approach on all travel, so we ban people from travelling for the purposes of a holiday, and everyone arriving must have a pre-departure Covid test 72 hours before arriving and then must quarantine at home for ten days and have two tests within that time.

"I think for now we are okay, but should the advice change we will change."

This comes after the first cases of a 'doubly-mutated' Covid-19 variant were discovered in the UK.

Public Health England's figures come from the latest update of PHE's surveillance of the distribution of different variants across the UK, based on data up to April 7.

Officials have designated it a variant under investigation and some scientists have said it is a cause for concern as it could be "less controlled by vaccines."

The variant carries two different mutations, E484Q and L452R.At the moment a host of countries are currently on the hotel quarantine list where a mandatory 10-day isolation is required.

With the quarantine hotel programme having officially started in England, a new set of rules for travel have been confirmed including harsh fines and possible prison time for anyone who tries to avoid hotel quarantine.

Other new quarantine rules include two Covid-19 tests after people travel.

However, Virologist Professor Stuart Neil told LBC that India should be on the red list and it is likely for "economic reasons" that it is not.

"There are certain variants that we need to keep a close eye on to stop them coming in such that we don't necessarily need to go to extreme lengths.

"The most important thing is to stop them getting in in the first place.

Asked whether he thinks India should be on the red list, the Professor responded "yes". Tom then questioned him over why he believes it has not yet been added.

"I imagine it is an economic argument, we have a huge economic link with India and we need to create even bigger links because of Brexit.

"So my speculation would be it is the government trying to balance those two opposing issues."

Labour's shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said Conservative ministers would have to accept the blame after a coronavirus variant first identified in India was found in the UK.

Public Health England reported that 73 cases of a variant named B.1.617, originally detected in India, have been confirmed in England as well as four cases in Scotland.

Thomas-Symonds said: "The Conservatives are putting the progress of the vaccine rollout at risk with their reckless refusal to secure our borders against Covid.

"Ministers have been warned time and again that failing to introduce a comprehensive hotel quarantine policy would leave us exposed to variants of Covid.

"The blame for these dangerous new variants reaching this country rests squarely with the UK Government, and lives are being put at risk."We need a proper hotel quarantine system in place urgently."