Boris Johnson today tore into Nicola Sturgeon over her threat to quarantine people entering Scotland from England – insisting there is ‘no border’ within the UK.
The PM derided the First Minister’s repeated refusal to rule out the move, saying it was ‘absolutely’ astonishing she thought it was an option.
‘There is no such thing as a border between England and Scotland,’ Mr Johnson told MPs.
But at her daily briefing in Edinburgh later, Ms Sturgeon accused the premier of ‘absurd and ridiculous political comments’, saying there was obviously a ‘geographical boundary’.
The bitter clashes mark another escalation in tensions between Mr Johnson and Ms Sturgeon, who has previously slated him for acting ‘recklessly’ by loosening lockdown too quickly.
Scotland has been taking a distinctly more cautious approach to easing restrictions, and there have even been claims that the SNP is using the crisis to fuel the drive for independence.
At PMQs, Boris Johnson tore into Nicola Sturgeon over her threat to quarantine people entering Scotland from England – insisting there is ‘no border’ within the UK
At her daily briefing in Edinburgh later Ms Sturgeon accused the premier of ‘absurd and ridiculous political comments’
Government releases roll call of at-risk areas with high Covid-19 infection rates
Bradford, Barnsley and Rochdale are three of the areas of England most at risk of being hit by a ‘local lockdown’ like the one imposed in Leicester to control the coronavirus, according to official data.
Statistics for the week ending June 21 — the most recently available — show those areas had the highest Covid-19 infection rates in the country, each with more than 50 positive tests per 100,000 people. Only Leicester recorded more (140.2).
It comes as government sources today said local lockdowns could be ‘just days away’. But ministers have yet to officially confirm which parts of England are in the firing line.
Barnsley Council today called for ‘extra care and vigilance’ among its citizens because of the high infection rate and the risk of a Covid-19 flare-up that could see the city shut down.
Other areas that may face being plunged into another lockdown include Bedford, Oldham, Rotherham, Tameside, Blackburn with Darwen and Kirklees, which all have more than 30 cases per 100,000 people.
At the other end of the scale, in the week from June 15 to June 21, West Berkshire, South Tyneside and the City of London all recorded zero coronavirus cases per 100,000 population. And the rate was lower than one in South Gloucestershire, Wokingham, Gloucestershire, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, Redcar and Cleveland, Torbay, Lambeth and Portsmouth.
Asked about the situation by Conservative MP Andrew Bowie at PMQs, Mr Johnson said: ‘There have been no such discussions with the Scottish administration about that but I would point out what he knows very well – there is no such thing as a border between England and Scotland.’
However, at her own briefing later Ms Sturgeon said: ‘What there definitely is, is a geographical boundary to my powers as First Minister.
‘If the Prime Minister is questioning that now, I’m not sure what he would say if I pitched up in Newcastle and started to try to implement Scottish Government policies in Newcastle.
‘And see what I’ve just said there? It’s absurd too, which is why we shouldn’t be having these discussions.
‘We should all be focusing with an absolute laser-like focus on what we need to do within our own responsibilities and working together when necessary to stop a virus.’
On the possibility of people having to quarantine after entering Scotland, Ms Sturgeon said there are no such proposals at the moment, but added: ‘Given the nature of what we’re dealing with right now – just to remind the Prime Minister: an infectious virus – I would not be doing my job properly if I ruled things out that, as we see from countries around the world, are being used selectively in appropriate circumstances to try to contain a virus.
‘If I’m looking at the data and the evidence and I’m seeing that there’s a risk to Scotland of infection coming in from other parts of the UK and I think that there needs to be measures taken to contain that, then I will discuss that with other administrations as appropriate.’
Ms Sturgeon insisted her one objective during the pandemic is ‘trying to stop this virus getting out of control’.
She said anyone trying to turn the crisis into a ‘political or a constitutional argument’ needed to ‘go and take a long hard look at yourself in a mirror’.
‘If you’re being honest with yourself, you will admit that you’re failing people or risking failing people, so I’m not going to do that,’ she said,
The PM derided the First Minister’s repeated refusal to rule out the move, saying it was ‘absolutely’ astonishing she thought it was an option
The quarantine row came as Britain today announced 176 more coronavirus deaths as government experts estimated up to 3,000 people are still getting infected each day in England but the crucial R rate has dropped in every region.
Department of Health chiefs say the official number of laboratory-confirmed victims now stands at 43,906 — but separate government figures show the UK topped the dreaded 50,000 mark a month ago.
Britain recorded more than 1,000 daily fatalities during the darkest days of its crisis but the outbreak has slowed drastically in the past month. For comparison, only 155 deaths were recorded yesterday.
Government data shows 154 Covid-19 victims were recorded last Wednesday, followed by 184 and 250 in the two weeks before.
But the rolling seven-day average of daily deaths is still 118, exactly the same as it was this point last week. Analysis shows it is the first Wednesday to Wednesday period since the start of April that the daily average hasn’t dropped.
Separate data released today — by a team at Public Health England and Cambridge University — predicted up to 3,000 people are still getting infected in England every day, including 1,000 in the Midlands.
The rate is in line with figures from a separate government-run Covid-19 surveillance testing scheme, as well as data from a symptom-tracking app, which suggest the speed at which the outbreak is shrinking is levelling off.
The team believe the R rate has dropped in every region to be between 0.7-0.9, putting it in line with the official figure given by SAGE after last month saying it had risen to above the dreaded level of one in several regions.