Theresa May says 'we've gone backwards' as she launches withering attack on Government over Covid-19

Theresa May has launched a withering attack on the Government, blaming Ministers for international travel chaos and shutting Britain’s doors to investors.

The former Prime Minister even claimed that the country had “gone backwards” following the rollout of the Covid vaccine programme as she accused Ministers of being too cautious.

Ministers had assured Mrs May last year of their desire to “get internationally agreed standard health measures” to assist the aviation and transport sectors.

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“One year on, we are no further forward. Indeed, we have a devastated industry, jobs lost and global Britain shut for business,” she said.

Former PM Theresa May in the CommonsFormer PM Theresa May in the Commons
Former PM Theresa May in the Commons

“More than not being any further forward, we have gone backwards. We now have more than 50 per cent of the adult population vaccinated — it is a wonderful programme — yet we are more restricted on travel than we were last year.

“In 2020, I went to Switzerland in August and South Korea in September. There was no vaccine but travel was possible. This year, there is a vaccine but travel is not possible. I really do not understand the Government’s stance.”

On the recent changes about Portugal’s travel status, she maintained: “The messaging is mixed and the system is chaotic. Portugal was put on the green list, people went to the football, then Portugal was put on the amber list, leaving holidaymakers scrabbling for flights and devastated families having to cancel their plans.

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“That is not to mention the impact on the airlines, on travel agents here and on the travel and tourist industry in our longest-standing trading partner in Europe.

“Business travel is practically impossible: global Britain has shut its doors to business and investors. In a normal pre-pandemic year, passengers travelling through Heathrow spent £16bn throughout the country. That has been lost.”

Mr May said there were “some facts on which the Government need to be upfront with the British people and about which Ministers need to think a bit more when they make decisions”.

“First, we will not eradicate Covid-19 from the UK. There will not be a time when we can say that there will never be another case of covid-19 in this country,” she said.

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“Secondly, variants will keep on coming. There will be new variants every year. If the Government’s position is that we cannot open up travel until there are no new variants elsewhere in the world, we will never be able to travel abroad ever again.

“The third fact that the Government need to state much more clearly is that sadly people will die from Covid here in the UK in the future, as 10,000 to 20,000 people do every year from flu.”

In response, Robert Courts, a Transport Minister, praised Mrs May for her “great expertise”.

He added: “We continue to work with international partners such as the International Civil Aviation Organisation, the International Maritime Organisation and the World Health Organisation, as well as with bilateral partners.

“I can confirm that we are working to see what more we can do to open up international travel with the aid of vaccines.”