Matthew Taylor

Sunday shows round-up: Zahawi denies plans to withdraw free lateral flow tests

Sunday shows round-up: Zahawi denies plans to withdraw free lateral flow tests
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The Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi was in the hotseat this morning as the Sunday interview shows make their return. He spoke to Trevor Phillips and immediately scotched reports in the Sunday Times from Whitehall sources suggesting that the current policy of providing free lateral flow tests could soon be on its way out:

NZ: I don’t recognise [this] at all…

TP: There are no plans at the moment to stop lateral flow tests being free?

NZ: Absolutely not.

Cutting isolation to 5 days ‘would certainly help’

Zahawi also spoke to Sophie Raworth, who is now filling the role vacated by Andrew Marr. Raworth asked Zahawi about proposals which could see the mandatory period for self-isolation reduced from seven days to five, dependent on the results of two negative lateral flow tests on consecutive days. Though the government had apparently knocked this idea on the head a couple of weeks ago, Zahawi now said that he would be guided by the verdict of the Health Security Agency:

NZ: If the experts… deem it appropriate… it would certainly help.

‘We have to go faster’ with school vaccinations

Raworth bought up the rate of vaccination of children aged 12 – 15. The health service has made much slower progress than anticipated, with only around half of eligible children in this age group having received a jab. Zahawi told her that the government intended to ratchet up the pace from tomorrow:

NZ: We have to go much, much faster… This is the way we are going to transition this virus from pandemic to endemic.

Rachel Reeves – Labour would tax North Sea oil and gas companies

The Shadow Chancellor was also making the day’s media rounds, and mounted an attack on the government over the rising cost of energy. Reeves said that companies in the oil and gas sector were likely to experience record profits for the year, and that Labour would target them with a windfall tax:

RR: I’m putting forward a one-off increase in the taxes paid by North Sea oil and gas… Let’s tax them a bit more, and use that money to reduce bills.

Government should cut VAT on fuel

Keeping up the barrage, Reeves also targeted the Prime Minister, claiming that he was ‘the biggest advocate of cutting gas and electricity bills’ while he was campaigning to leave the European Union. She encouraged him to adopt a policy of cutting VAT on fuel:

RR: It will save people £100 a year… This is something practical that… would be felt immediately.

Dr Clive Kay – Losing 1,400 staff would be ‘an extreme position’

And finally, Raworth also spoke to the chief executive of King’s College Hospital Dr Clive Kay. Raworth was keen to hear the impact of the government’s measures requiring all NHS staff to be vaccinated. At King’s, around 10 per cent of the workforce of 14,000 are unvaccinated. Kay said that some would have the chance to be redeployed, but did not rule out the possibility of becoming decimated as a result:

SR: You could lose more than 1,000 staff?

CK: It’s an extreme position… My job is to worry… Ultimately if individuals chose not to [get vaccinated], it is their personal choice.