Tony Blair says there should be ‘mass testing’ at borders
The former Prime Minister and Labour leader has propelled himself back into the political mainstream in recent months to try and help with the ongoing coronavirus crisis. Mr Blair, who left Downing Street in 2007 after a decade in charge, has been increasingly influential in decision-making at the highest level during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 67-year-old has reportedly held talks with Health Secretary Matt Hancock, where it is understood he offered “strategic advice” on mass testing and vaccines.
Mr Blair has also been in discussions with Baroness Harding, the head of NHS Test and Trace, and Steve Bates, a former Labour adviser who sits on the vaccine taskforce.
A source close to Mr Blair told the Sunday Times, the former leader is determined to emulate the comeback of former French leader Charles de Gaulle.
Mr de Gaulle became the provisional leader of France from 1944-1946, overseeing the end of the Second World War, before leaving politics and returning as the President in 1958.
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Mr Blair remains a hugely divisive figure in the UK, mainly due to his role in the 2003 Iraq War.
The prospect of a return to the frontline of British politics has triggered an angry response from a number of Express.co.uk readers.
Commenting on an earlier story posted on Express.co.uk, one reader said: “He just will not go away, will he?”
Another wrote: “OMG, just when you think things couldn’t get any worse!”
A third said: “The audacity of this individual is beggars belief, he has no shame.”
Meanwhile, a fourth added: “No thanks Blair you have done enough damage.”
Since the coronavirus pandemic began in March, Mr Blair has focused his attention on tackling the virus and even changed the strategy of his think-tank – The Tony Blair Institute for Global Change.
His ideas have had some relative success: in one document he adopted the term “moonshoot” when outlining a mass testing strategy – the name was later given to the Government’s testing scheme.
Last month, Mr Blair went public in calling for the UK to delay the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccines in a bid to increase the number of people who could be protected against the virus.
The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) later urged the Government to adopt the approach, and said the second dose would be given towards the end of 12 weeks rather than in the previously recommended 3-4 weeks.
Earlier this week, Mr Blair appeared on ITV’s Good Morning Britain and warned the spread of the new variant of coronavirus “means we’ve got to alter our plans for vaccination”.
Mr Blair insisted the UK could ease restrictions by next month and have the majority of the people vaccinate by March.
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In his latest report, Mr Blair said the Government could be looking at three million doses of the vaccine a week by the end of January, four million a week by the end of February and five million a week by the end of March.
Mr Blair said: “This would allow us to ease restrictions significantly in February and have a majority of the population vaccinated by the end of the third week of March.”
On the prospect of a return to politics, a spokeswoman for Mr Blair said he has “spoken privately to others in Government and is happy to help in any way he can”.
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