Boris Johnson has announced a dramatic tightening of the UK’s borders, with all international arrivals to be forced to quarantine as well as demonstrate they have had a negative Covid test.
After months of criticism of the government’s lax border policies, which Labour claimed were “costing lives”, the prime minister said he was tightening the rules to prevent new variants of the virus reaching the UK and safeguard the vaccination programme.
“It is vital to take these extra measures now when day by day, hour by hour, we are making such strides in protecting the population,” Johnson told a Downing Street press conference.
Despite some tentative signs that infections may be levelling off, he also underlined the desperate situation facing England’s hospitals, urging the public to think twice before going out at the weekend.
“There are now more than 37,000 Covid patients in hospital across the UK and, in spite of all the efforts of our doctors and nurses and our medical staff, we are now seeing cancer treatments sadly postponed, ambulances queueing, and intensive care units spilling over into adjacent wards,” he said.
The perilous state of the NHS was underlined by a Guardian analysis that showed two-thirds of all NHS trusts across England were treating more coronavirus patients last week than they did at the peak of the first wave of the pandemic
Figures show that in 17 trusts the number of people with coronavirus outnumbered all other patients. On the current trajectory, the number of people being treated for Covid in England’s hospitals could be double that of the April 2020 peak within weeks.