Crossbench peer blames PM's 'slight obsession with India deal' for Delta strain rise

14 June 2021, 17:07

By Fiona Jones

Crossbench Life peer Lord Jim O'Neill condemns Boris Johnson for his "slight obsession" with securing an India trade deal, which he said led to a delay in red-listing the country, thus the Delta variant has become prevalent in the UK.

Boris Johnson is due to make an announcement later this evening on whether the lockdown easing can go ahead as planned on June 21.

But there are doubts that restrictions will be lifted due to the Delta variant, originally found in India, spreading throughout the country; it is instead expected that lockdown restrictions will be extended for a further four weeks.

Lord Jim O'Neill reflected on the Government's handling of the pandemic ahead of the PM's press conference, specifically condemning the delay in red listing India which occurred only after Boris Johnson cancelled his trip to initiate trade talks.

The cross-party Covid inquiry group has called for PM to be investigated over whether his delay with this decision was influenced by his desire to have a trade meeting with Delhi.

Lord Jim said, "It seems to me we've sort of learnt by default in the past 16 months that if you try to kid yourself that you can go into a time where there's rising infection rates by easing restrictions more in some false belief it's going to help the economy, it's turned out to be wrong."

Watch the press conference here: Live: Boris Johnson to give update on 21 June lockdown lifting

"The truth of the matter is, if the PM had been more thoughtful about his slight obsession at the time of a trade deal with India, we might not have been in the problem we are now.

"Clearly throughout the whole of 2020 there was a lot of errors and judgement errors which is easy for me to say, but the truth of it is there's a lot of judgement errors have been made along the way.

"Generally speaking this year's been a lot better other than, of course, this particular incident."

There have been 42,323 confirmed cases of the Delta strain in the UK with nearly 30,000 reported in the past week.

The Delta variant is thought to be around 60 percent more transmissible than the Alpha variant first found in Kent.

In their latest figures Public Health England estimated that the Delta variant accounts for 96 percent of all new cases of Covid-19 in the UK, with case numbers doubling every four-and-a-half days in some parts of England.

Incidence is highest in parts of the North West including Blackburn with Darwen, Bolton, Manchester and Wigan.