Ministers refuse to rule out the re-imposition of strict travel restrictions from Europe if cases increase

Ministers today refused to rule out a renewed imposition of strict travel restrictions in Europe, fearing rising cases.

Tory chairman Oliver Dowden insisted vaccination was Britain’s main line of defense against the disease, not border controls.

However, he admitted that the situation is being “reviewed” with an alarm over an increase in cases across the continent.

The comments came after Austria imposed a draconian new lockdown on unvaccinated people after a dramatic increase in infections.

Germany, France and Italy also saw their outbreaks rise significantly.

Boris Johnson warned last week that “storm clouds” are gathering over Europe, which appears to be at a different stage of the pandemic than Britain.

When asked if travel restrictions may need to be reintroduced, Mr Dowden said in a round of interviews this morning, “What happens across the Channel is a constant reminder that this global pandemic has not gone away.

“This country’s approach to the pandemic is to make sure we have a high level of vaccination protection … that is the most appropriate approach for this country.”

Tory chairman Oliver Dowden insisted that vaccination was Britain’s main line of defense against the disease, not border controls

Germany, France and Italy also saw their outbreaks rise significantly

Urged on whether the government would repeat its mistake of closing the borders too slowly, the conservative chief said: “Of course we keep an eye on these things all the time. We have moved away from some of these limitations.

“We haven’t ruled it out, and of course if the situation changes dramatically we’ll have to re-examine it.

“But the most important thing we do in this country is the vaccine …”

When asked what could trigger a rethink, Dowden said, “For example, if we have a new variant, we need to think about what our boundaries would be in this situation to protect ourselves, as we have in the past. “

But he added, “I am confident that the government has put our trust in the vaccine program.”

Mr Johnson said last week people should get their booster jabs to avert a resurgence in the UK.

“I have to be absolutely open to people, we’ve been here before – and we remember what happens when a wave rolls in,” he said.

“If you can get it, it’s a great thing, the protection it gives you is great and so those over 50 that we call up should come and get it.”

But he added, “What I’m also saying is that if we don’t do it quickly enough, we can see the potential risks to the state of the pandemic in other parts of Europe.”

Unvaccinated people over the age of 12 are now prohibited from leaving their homes in Austria, with the exception of basic activities such as working, shopping for groceries, going for a walk – or being vaccinated.

Authorities fear that hospital staff will no longer be able to cope with the growing influx of Covid patients.

Austria has one of the lowest vaccination rates in Western Europe, only around 65 percent of the 8.9 million inhabitants are fully vaccinated.

The country has seen a worrying trend in infections in recent weeks. The country reported 11,552 new infections yesterday, up from 8,554 new infections a week ago.

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