Covid inquiry must look into Indian variant and red list delay

The chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Coronavirus has said the public inquiry into the pandemic must look into the delay adding India to the red list and whether it was “influenced by politics and not the science.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock refused to take responsibility for the failure this morning in an interview with the BBC's Andrew Marr, while asking the public to show personal responsibility as the next set of restrictions are lifted tomorrow. The Health Secretary was also challenged by Andrew Marr about comments made at an APPG on Coronavirus evidence session last month by Lucy Moreton of the Immigration Services Union, who said quarantine controls at our borders are often based on trust including asking if someone's visited a red list country in the past ten days.

It comes as a group of 25 MPs and peers from the APPG on Coronavirus, including a former Conservative health minister, have written to the prime minister calling for the chair of the Covid inquiry to be picked on a cross-party basis rather than being “hand-picked” by the government. The letter, coordinated by APPG Chair Layla Moran, calls for a formal cross-party committee to oversee the setting up of the inquiry, to avoid political bias and ensure it can "command the confidence of the public and the support of Parliament and all four nations of the UK." Signatories include former Conservative MP Dan Poulter, Labour MPs Clive Lewis and Debbie Abrahams, SNP Commons health spokesperson Philippa Whitford and Plaid Cymru Commons leader Liz Saville Roberts.

You can read the letter here.

Layla Moran MP, Chair of the APPG on Coronavirus, said:

“The delay adding India to the red list allowed thousands of people to enter the UK without going into hotel quarantine, meaning a crucial opportunity to stop the Indian variant was missed.

“The Covid public inquiry must look into this decision and whether it was influenced by politics and not the science. It does appear that Boris Johnson put the pursuit of a post-Brexit trade deal with India ahead of public health.

“Ministers are asking the public to take responsibility and show common sense, but failing to do so themselves.”

Press contact: Paul Haydon, [email protected] , 07988395025

Notes to Editors

The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on coronavirus is conducting a cross-party parliamentary inquiry into the government’s handling of the pandemic and has so far held over 20 hearings and made over 40 recommendations.  The APPG published a cross-party report on 3 May 2021 calling for stricter curbs on international travel to prevent Covid variants entering the UK. The report recommended that: "The UK government should not delay the addition of countries to the ‘red list’. Both where ‘variants under investigation’ and ‘variants of concern’ are identified, countries with such variants should be added to the ‘red list’ and quarantine rules should come into force with immediate effect."

Speaking at an APPG on Coronavirus oral evidence session on 20 April 2021, Lucy Moreton of the Immigration Services Union, said: “A lot of the border and immigration and migration and quarantine controls are based on trust. We trust people when they say they’ve not been in a red list country in the last ten days. We trust people when they say that they’re going to go to 2 Acacia Avenue to quarantine. We trust both that there is a 2 Acacia Avenue that they’re going to go there and that when they go there they’re going to stay there. The whole thing is all based on an assumption that people will do the right thing.”  A full transcript of the session is available here and video here.