Sunday shows: Labour calls for “additional protections” at UK borders

Sophy Ridge on Sunday

Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds called for a “comprehensive system” of border checks, including testing and quarantining, but also stressed the need for “consistent and effective” government messaging on Covid rules.

  • On introducing further Covid border checks: “Nobody could say that the situation at our borders is satisfactory, or that there is sufficient protection in place for our people against the different strains that could be coming from around the world. We need now to put additional protections in place. We do need that effective border testing regime and we also need an effective quarantining regime, which we’ve not had.”
  • He added: “The government did not introduce a quarantining regime until June last year. This government was an international outlier… It was too slow, it was put into place in June, it isn’t effective.”
  • On specific measures: “I would support, for example, the use of hotels. But above all we need a comprehensive system and plan from the government and stop moving from one chaotic situation to another.”
  • On the current system: “Between June of last year and September, around about two million people had their passenger locater form spot-checked by border force… Only around 3% of those were successfully contacted.”
  • Asked what Labour would have done: “We would actually have used a far more effective system, wouldn’t have outsourced it in the way that the government has and we would have acted more quickly.”
  • On Covid restrictions in place and whether further measures are needed: “Could we do more? Yes, of course we could do more… But there’s also an issue around messaging and the government getting its messaging right.”
  • On government messaging: “We need not only to make sure we get this border issue right, which is absolutely vital… but government messaging needs to be more consistent and effective as well.”
  • On whether an SNP majority in Holyrood would give a mandate for a second independence referendum: “We have a very clear position going into those elections in Scotland against the idea of a second independence referendum.”
  • On the focus for Labour: “It is this pandemic and working together across the UK to try to do our best to save life, it should be our absolute focus at the moment, not this constitutional issue.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told viewers this morning that “we want to make sure everyone can comply” with isolation requirements but insisted that a one-off payment of £500 for those who test positive is “not government policy”.

He said there is evidence that the current lockdown is “starting to bring cases down” but added that “we are a long, long, long way from being low enough” as the case rate was “incredibly high” and NHS pressure is ongoing.

Commenting on calls from the British Medical Association to halve the 12-week gap between the first and second doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid vaccine, Hancock argued that current government policy is “the way to save most lives fastest”.

Asked whether children will return to schools after the Easter break, Hancock said: “I would hope so, but we’ve got to look at the data, we’ve got to look at the impact of the vaccination programme.”

He added: “The Education Secretary has said that he will ensure that schools have two weeks’ notice of return and I don’t know if it will be before then or not. We’ve got to watch the data, as we all do.”

The Andrew Marr Show

Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy said the UK “should be taking border security far more seriously” amid the Covid crisis. She was also asked about her recent comments on Joe Biden being “woke”.

  • On whether everybody with a first dose of Pfizer vaccine get a second dose in six weeks, not 12: “It would be helpful if the government could come forward and level with the public about the basis on which that decision is made. But the overwhelming message to the public would be: don’t panic.”
  • On the chief medical officer’s decision to set-12 week gap between doses: “We’re in a race against time to get the vaccine out across the country and, based on the evidence he has, he believes that a 12-week gap is the right gap.” She called on the government to update the public in light of new evidence.
  • On whether we should close our borders to countries without high vaccine coverage: “It’s not just countries that have identified new strains of the virus that we ought to be careful about… There’s no question that we should be taking border security far more seriously.”
  • On what ‘woke’ means: “What I mean by that really is that Joe Biden is somebody who knows exactly who he is and what he stands for, and he’s comfortable with it… You can call it woke, you can call it progressive, you can call it what you like.”
  • On whether it is ‘unwoke’ to object to Churchill’s statue being vandalised: “No, I don’t think it is, it’s a basic question of decency.”
  • On the Mail on Sunday story that she praised a report that suggested replacing the armed forces with a ‘human security services whose job is to damp down violence’: “I didn’t applaud that report, that is complete and utter nonsense… We’ve always stood up for the armed forces, we’ve always stood up for this country.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said there was evidence that Covid cases are starting to come down in many parts of the country, but stressed that people should continue to stay at home after receiving the vaccine.

He said the government would “start to lift the restrictions as soon as safely possible” but would not give a date. He said there are 77 known cases of the South African variant in the UK, nine known cases of the variant first discovered in Brazil and none of the other Brazilian variant as far as they know.

Hancock guaranteed that everyone who has had a first dose of the Pfizer vaccine would get a second dose in 12 weeks. He refused to say whether schools would return in February or after Easter. He said he is “not attracted to the idea of vaccine passports here at home”.

SNP First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon denied accusations against her around how she handled complaints against Alex Salmond and when she knew about them.

  • On her handling of claims against Alex Salmond: “It’s right that I am properly scrutinised on that… [At the upcoming committee of inquiry] I will refute all of those accusations and I will set out my account of what happened given the very difficult situation that I faced. People can make their own judgments on that. What I will never do is apologise for doing everything I could to make sure that complaints about sexual harassment were investigated.”
  • On Salmond’s recent accusations against her: “At times I appear to be simultaneously accused of colluding with Mr Salmond, to somehow cover up allegations of sexual harassment, on the one hand, then on the other hand being part of some dastardly conspiracy to bring him down. Neither of those things are true.”
  • Responding to Andrew Marr saying she claimed to have first found out about the allegations at her house, but actually discussed them at a meeting in parliament four days earlier: “Alex Salmond told me about the allegations against him on the 2nd of April in my house.”
  • She added: “I did not mislead parliament.”
  • On drugs deaths in Scotland: “We’ve always known this is a major problem. But I don’t think my government has done enough and focused hard enough
  • On independence: “Boris Johnson clearly just fears the verdict and the will of the Scottish people.”
  • On the Holyrood elections in May: “I see no reason why the election should be delayed.” But said it would be a cross-party decision.
  • On whether she would hold an advisory independence referendum: “I want to have a legal referendum. That’s what I’m going to seek the authority from the Scottish people for in May.”

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