As England’s decision yesterday to delay ending coronavirus restrictions sinks in, there is increasing focus on how the Delta variant was able to gain such a foothold in the UK.
Labour has been blaming the government’s “lax border measures” – in particular the “fortnight of failure” when it delayed adding India to its travel-ban red list.
India is where the Delta variant, which is being blamed for the recent increase in cases in the UK, was first identified.
It was added to the government’s red list (with the highest level of travel restrictions) on 23 April 2021 – two weeks after neighbouring Pakistan and Bangladesh.
The government has said this delay was based on the proportion of people arriving in the UK from the three countries who tested positive for coronavirus – the positivity rate.
Mr Hancock told Parliament on 17 May:”The truth is that when we put Pakistan and Bangladesh on the red list, positivity among those arriving from those countries was three times higher than it was among those arriving from India.”
The government has not published all the figures that it said supported that claim, but Reality Check said at the time that there was no evidence that Bangladesh had three times the positivity rate of India.
In the Commons last night, Mr Hancock had changed his line, saying: “As I have said to this House before, when the decision was taken on 2 April to put Pakistan and Bangladesh on the red list, test positivity of travellers returning from Pakistan was 4.6%—three times the 1.6% positivity of returning travellers from India.”
But this time he did not mention Bangladesh. The figures for Pakistan and India are close to the ones that have been published by Mr Hancock’s department, although we cannot be sure because it has not published the figures for the exact date he was talking about.