Matthew Taylor

Sunday shows round-up: vaccines minister supports masks indoors

Sunday shows round-up: vaccines minister supports masks indoors
Nadhim Zahawi (photo: Getty)
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Nadhim Zahawi – Government will set out unlocking steps tomorrow

The government’s original plans for ‘Freedom Day’ on 21 June came and went, but this morning the vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi re-asserted that the blueprint for Freedom Day Mk 2 had been given the green light:

NZ: I am confident that we can proceed… but cautiously, and we will be setting out tomorrow, guidelines on… the transition from mandating, or government by diktat, to taking personal responsibility… for our own actions.

We will expect people to wear masks in crowded places

However, while speaking to Andrew Marr, Zahawi stressed that just because restrictions were being relaxed, this did not mean the public had quite the carte-blanche that some might have expected. Instead, Zahawi suggested that several aspects of daily life would look very similar to the status quo:

NZ: The guidelines will be very clear on things like mask-wearing. There’s an expectation for people to wear masks indoors, in crowded places, on public transport.

We are looking at making self-isolation ‘fit for purpose’

Zahawi said that the government was looking at ways to change the current rules forcing people to self-isolate for ten days if they were ‘pinged’ by the NHS app or located through NHS Test and Trace. He suggested that the isolation period could be at least be cut in half:

NZ: [Our] team are looking at how we use that app… including, for example, being able to take five days of lateral flow tests… and being able to upload them to the system.

‘Real world data’ backs up eight week vaccine wait

Zahawi was also asked if the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation could recommend reducing the wait between the first and second vaccines, but Zahawi said that eight weeks appeared to be the point at which people could enjoy the greatest benefits:

NZ: The real world data… suggests that actually, the eight week interval offers that additional fortification… much better than having the interval shortened any further… That’s the clinical advice and that is the advice we will follow.

Kate Green – Social distancing should continue ‘as far as possible’

Marr also spoke to the shadow education secretary Kate Green. Green said that Labour’s view was that social distancing should be here to stay for quite some time:

KG: We do want to see pubs and hospitality re-open. I think that social distancing, as far as it’s possible, is something that we should try to continue, and I’ve said all the way through that we should have supported schools to open ‘Nightingale’ classrooms, so that school children could be kept more socially distant.

‘Mandatory mask wearing’ should be kept in place after 19 July

Green also voiced support for mandatory mask wearing to continue well past the government’s unlocking date. She told Phillips that it was a move that would see high levels of public support, and also suggested that Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham would be insisting that people continue to wear them on the city’s public transport network:

KG: Most people feel more comfortable and confident when others are wearing masks around them. And I’m afraid this [emphasis on] personal responsibility is a recipe for confusion… [and] probably a recipe for more confrontations, and I just think it would be much clearer and simpler for the government to keep mandatory mask wearing in public places in place after 19 July.

David Spiegelhalter – UK could see ‘2,500’ Covid hospital admissions a day

Marr interviewed Professor David Spiegelhalter, statistician at the university of Cambridge, about what the unlocking could mean for hospitalisations:

AM: If we get to 100,000 cases a day, what are we looking at in terms of hospitalisations in the NHS?

DS: That would mean – 100,000 cases if we got there – would be maybe 2,500 admissions a day. That’s very high [but] it’s considerably lower than the peak in the second wave, and… they would be younger, less severe and shorter stays.

Few people who self-isolate actually have Covid

Spiegelhalter outlined why he thought there was trouble on the horizon if self-isolation rules continued as they were over the summer:

DS: I think it will be a real challenge for the NHS… I think it’s inevitable that millions of people will be told to self-isolate… Everything we’re doing is going to be massively disrupted… And actually, few people told to self-isolate actually have an infection, especially if they’re vaxxed. So I do think it makes sense to get this in proportion.

Vaccines reduce risk of ‘long Covid’

Spiegelhalter urged take-up of the vaccine not just to protect against the disease, which he judged would make the recipient around ‘20 times safer’, but also to protect against the phenomenon known as ‘long Covid’:

AM: How worried should you be about ‘long Covid’?

DS: …It is a reasonable concern… I should say for young people, vaccines not only reduce the chance of getting the virus, but they also seem to reduce the chance of getting ‘long Covid’, if you do get the virus.

Sir Nick Carter – ‘All of us can hold our heads up high’

Marr also spoke to the Chief of the Defence Staff Sir Nick Carter about the war in Afghanistan, which began almost 20 years ago. With the international coalition’s forces now being withdrawn, Marr asked Carter if he thought the war had been worth it:

NC: I think it slightly depends on how Afghanistan turns out. I think what one has to remember is that… we created the conditions for civil society to flourish… Not a day goes by without me thinking of the 457 British military who lost their lives… and I think that all of us can hold our heads up high.

Mark Bullingham – Taking the knee is ‘not a political gesture’

And finally, ahead of the final of Euro 2020, which will see Italy play England at 8pm this evening, Marr spoke to the chief executive of the Football Association, Mark Bullingham. The players have generated some ripples in the political sphere by ‘taking the knee’, a gesture associated with the activist group Black Lives Matter. Bullingham told Marr that the stance was intended only as a show of support for anti-racism, nothing more:

MB: We’ve been very clear on what taking the knee stands for. It’s an act of equality. It is not a political gesture, and quite frankly, anyone who tries to position it in that way is wrong.

Written byMatthew Taylor

Matthew Taylor reviews the Sunday politics shows for The Spectator

Topics in this articlePolitics