Nadhim Zahawi

Face Masks in Schools Could be Ditched Within Days

Compulsory masks in schools could be ditched within days under plans being considered by ministers. According to one member of the Government, it will definitely happen before January 26th, the day earmarked for the scrapping of most ‘Plan B’ restrictions. Today’s Sun has more.

Falling Covid rates mean face coverings in schools could be scrapped before Plan B restrictions are lifted – which is expected on January 26th.

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi is desperate to free youngsters from having to cover up all day long in classrooms.

One Government insider said: “Masks in schools could theoretically come off sooner than January 26th – if we start seeing really good numbers.

“They are not not linked to Plan B, so it could happen sooner than lifting Plan B. It’s not going to be any slower.”

Compulsory face masks in classrooms were imposed at the beginning of term amid fear Omicron could overwhelm the NHS. But the Government has admitted the evidence for using masks in schools to reduce Covid spread is “not conclusive”.

And new stats reveal Covid infection rates have dropped below 100,000 a day in the UK for the first time in over three weeks. Stats whizz Sir David Spiegelhalter yesterday said that Covid cases have now peaked.

Worth reading in full.

Education Secretary Reveals that ‘Plan B’ for Schools Includes Mask Mandates

Schools will not reintroduce the policy of ‘bubbles’ to protect pupils against coronavirus, Nadhim Zahawi says, but he hasn’t ruled out a return of face masks. The Telegraph has more.

He said he had contingency plans to keep schools open, but told Sky News: “I don’t want to return to bubbles because actually, you saw the fall off in attendance which really does harm mental wellbeing, mental health of children.”

Mr Zahawi did not, however, rule out the return of the wearing of masks in the classroom in England.

He said: “We’ve got a contingency plan, as you would expect me to do… it contains lots of contingencies, including masks, absolutely.”

The bubble system, which led to whole year groups being sent home to self-isolate for 10 days because one of their classmates tested positive, was scrapped by the Government after more than one million pupils were kept off school in July.

The controversial approach was stopped on July 19th, as Boris Johnson announced that the “obvious way forward” was testing pupils rather than sending large numbers of children home to self-isolate. …

The mandatory wearing of face coverings in schools and colleges was scrapped in May, but Government guidance says that directors of public health could advise schools to reintroduce them if cases spike.

Worth reading in full.

English Patients Could Get Routine Annual Covid Jabs at Same Time as They Get Flu Vaccinations, Says Nadhim Zahawi

The media focus is currently centred on the booster jabs that will be given this year – starting with the over-50s and care workers – but the Government is already looking to the booster vaccine roll-outs of the future. Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi says that English patients could get routine annual Covid jabs at the same time as they get their flu vaccinations. The Guardian has the story.

Scientists have warned that the NHS is likely to be under significant pressure from other seasonal illnesses as well as Covid infections.

Zahawi said he hoped the booster programme would be the “last piece of the jigsaw” to allow society to continue through the winter without lockdowns.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme he said: “Where possible we will try and co-administer – with one caveat – with flu. GPs and pharmacies, which are the backbone of the vaccination programme, can rapidly vaccinate lots of people.

“This is probably the last piece of the jigsaw to allow us to transition this virus from pandemic to endemic and I hope by next year we will be in a position to deal with this virus with an annual inoculation programme as we do flu.” …

Boris Johnson is on Tuesday to confirm the start of a booster jabs programme for the over-50s, a day after Government scientists finally approved vaccinations for older schoolchildren. [Why finally? Why were they supposed to give the green light?]

Worth reading in full.

Fury as Government Green Lights Vaccines for Healthy Kids

Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi said in a House of Commons speech tonight that the vaccination of healthy 12-15 year-olds would go ahead from the beginning of next week – and confirmed that children, not their parents, would have the final say about whether to get jabbed. MailOnline has more.

Mr. Zahawi also reiterated the safety of the vaccine for children, saying the decision to offer the jab to 12 to 15 year-olds had followed advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) and had been “unanimously approved” by the U.K.’s Chief Medical Officers.

“We will now move with the same sense of urgency we’ve had at every point in our vaccination programme,” he added.

It comes as parents, experts and teaching unions today warned of tension in schools after the U.K. signed off on plans to offer Covid jabs to healthy 12 to 15 year-olds – which will see children get the final say on whether they are vaccinated.

Around three million under-16s are due to start getting their jabs from next week after Chris Whitty endorsed the move today, claiming it would help prevent outbreaks in classrooms and further disruptions to education this winter.

Doses will be largely administered through the existing school vaccination programme and parental consent will be sought.

But children will be able to overrule their parents’ decision in the case of a conflict if they are deemed mature and competent enough, which has caused fury.

Angry parents fumed against the move to leave the decision with young children who “can’t even decide what they want for tea, never mind” a vaccine, which carry small risks of side effects such as heart inflammation.

Professor Simon Clarke, a microbiologist at the University of Reading who is in favour of jabbing children, warned that giving youngsters the final say could lead to pupils being bullied by their peers into taking the jab.

He told MailOnline: “It will cause rows I think… You may end up in a situation where a minority, it will probably be the unvaccinated, get bullied and excluded by other children.”

Earlier headteachers revealed they had already received letters from pressure groups threatening legal action if schools take part in an under-16 vaccination programme.

The teachers’ union NAHT demanded urgent reassurance medics will be responsible for concerns about consent and vaccination rather than being left to schools, which could lead to tension with parents.

Children’s rights campaign group Us for Them said it needed a “cast-iron guarantee” from the Government that all parents would get the final say on whether their child is vaccinated.

Professor Whitty revealed today that children will be able to override their parents’ decision if they pass a “competence assessment” by the medical professional charged with administering the vaccine.

Under decades-old medical law used for other routine vaccines, youngsters get the final say if they are judged to have sufficient intelligence to be able to fully understand – and therefore consent to – vaccination.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Sarah Knapton, the Science Editor of the Telegraph, points out that Chris Whitty’s recommendation was distinctly lukewarm, which is bound to create confusion among parents.

No, Minister, Vaccine Passports Are Not Necessary to End the Pandemic

Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi has insisted to MPs in the Commons that vaccine passports are necessary to end the pandemic. The evidence, however, suggests otherwise.

While the U.K. has seen a spike in reported ‘cases’ in recent days, much of it is driven by the increase in testing as schools have returned. The positive rate, by contrast, shows a gentle decline.

There’s no sign here of vaccine passports being needed to prevent unmanageable spread.

What about elsewhere? Israel is a highly vaccinated country which got in there early with vaccines, so that upwards of 55% of the population has been double vaccinated since early April, and it has made extensive use of vaccine passports.

India, by contrast, is a low vaccination country which only recently broke through 10% double vaccinated.

How are they faring? Israel is currently experiencing a big surge in Delta infections, at a time when over 62% of the population is double vaccinated.

Nadhim Zahawi Won’t Rule Out Vaccine Passports in Pubs

The Vaccines Minister insisted vaccine passports will not be imposed on “essential services” in a clash with MPs today but refused to rule out their introduction at pubs and restaurants. The Sun has the story.

Nadhim Zahawi defended the introduction of vaccine passports which he said would “reduce transmission and serious illness”.

Boris Johnson is already facing a major rebellion over the plans, with more than 50 Tories expected to mutiny.

Covid papers will be needed to enter nightclubs and other large indoor venues from later this month.

Mr. Zahawi didn’t rule out their use becoming more widespread.

He sparred with raging MPs during a heated debate at the Commons Constitutional Affairs Committee.

The vaccines minister was pressed by Labour’s Deputy Leader Angela Rayner on where people will have to show Covid papers.

He replied: “I can assure her that there are some essential services which will not need for people to show Covid vaccine certification.

“These settings that have stayed open throughout the pandemic, such as public sector buildings, essential retail, essential services and public transport.”

Mr. Zahawi insisted it “pains” him to introduce vaccine passports and it’s a decision “we do not take lightly”.

He said it is “something that goes against the DNA of this minister and his PM but we are living through difficult times, unprecedented times”. …

But fuming Tory MPs lined up to angrily denounce the Government’s plans.

William Wragg accused the minister of talking “a load of rubbish” and said he was trying to “defend the indefensible”. …

Mark Harper, Chairman of the Covid Research Group, said vaccine passports are “a pointless policy with damaging effects”.

He added: “I’m afraid the Minister is picking an unnecessary fight with his own colleagues. I say to him the Government should think again.”

Worth reading in full.

Confusion Over Reported Plans for October ‘Firebreak’ Lockdown

There is some confusion today on recent reports that the Government is planning a potential October ‘firebreak’ lockdown. A senior Government scientist told the i that an “extended peak” of Covid ‘cases’ and hospitalisations could push ministers to impose another lockdown next month, but BBC News today quotes from both the Department for Education (DfE) and the Prime Minister’s spokesman who have denied this report.

“It is not true that the Government is planning a lockdown or ‘firebreak’ around the October half term,” [the DfE] said in a tweet.

The Prime Minister’s spokesman also denied the report. He said plans had been kept for a range of scenarios – “but these kind of measures would only be reintroduced as a last resort to prevent unsustainable pressure on our NHS”.

“I think we’ve been clear throughout that we will take action, and indeed we have done when necessary to protect our NHS,” he said.

But the spokesman pointed out that when rules were brought in the past, the U.K. did not yet have the protection from vaccines.

Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi has, however, been a little less clear in his denial of reports. He is reported in Sky News as saying that we can “continue on this sort of one-way road” towards reopening “if we do [the booster vaccine roll-out] well” (emphasis added).

Speaking to Kay Burley on Sky News, Mr. Zahawi did not confirm or deny whether he would endorse an October ‘firebreak’ if hospitalisations for Covid remain high. …

He added: “So the booster programme that we have had interim advice from the JCVI [Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation] on is my absolute priority.

“That will protect the most vulnerable to serious infection – that will absolutely help us to transition the virus from pandemic to endemic status.

“The important thing is that we get that right, because I think if we do that well, we can continue on this sort of one-way road towards sustaining the opening of the economy and, by next year hopefully, transitioning the virus from pandemic to endemic and dealing with it on an annual basis.”

Later during his Tuesday morning broadcast media round, Mr. Zahawi added that he had seen no plans for an October ‘firebreak’ lockdown if cases rise this autumn.

It is worth noting that, on the basis of the impending introduction of vaccine passports despite Zahawi’s previous claims to the contrary, an October lockdown could be on the cards even if the Vaccines Minister had ruled one out.

The BBC News and Sky News reports are both worth reading in full.

Why the Government is Wrong to Claim 12 Year-Olds Are Competent to Consent to Covid Vaccination Against Their Parents’ Wishes

Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi has said that if a 12-15 year-old wishes to receive the jab and is judged to be “competent” then his or her decision would overrule the parents’ refusal for their child to be vaccinated. The Telegraph has more.

In an interview with Times Radio on Sunday morning, Mr. Zahawi was asked what NHS clinicians could do if a parent says no to their child being vaccinated but the teenager says yes.

He replied: “The NHS is really well practised in this because they’ve been doing school immunisation programmes for a very long time so what you essentially do is make sure that the clinicians discuss this with the parents, with the teenager, and if they are then deemed to be able to make a decision that is competent then that decision will go in the favour of what the teenager decides to do.”

This idea that a 12 year-old can overrule his or her parents in a medical decision is based on the notion of Gillick competence, which derives from a 1985 House of Lords legal judgment (Gillick v West Norfolk and Wisbech Area Health Authority) which provides that children under 16 may be able to consent to their own treatment if they are deemed to have sufficient intelligence, competence and understanding to appreciate fully what the treatment involves.

However, as the U.K. Medical Freedom Alliance (UKMFA) explains in a recent open letter, the judgment in Gillick makes it clear it is to apply only in exceptional cases.

Nadhim Zahawi Confirms Vaccine Passports Will be Introduced at End of the Month

Vaccine Minister Nadhim Zahawi – who said the Government had no plans to introduce vaccine passports in January – confirmed on Trevor Philips on Sunday (and Sky News) that plans to introduce a vaccine status certification scheme for entry into large venues would go ahead at the end of the month. This is in spite of the fact that double jabbed people can still become infected and infected others. MailOnline has more.

The Vaccine Minister said the Government is concerned large venues “could end up causing a real spike in infections” because of groups of people mixing in close proximity.

He said the “worst thing” for those venues would be for surging coronavirus case numbers to result in an “open shut, open shut strategy” and the “best way” to ensure they can remain open for the long term “is to check vaccine status”.

He also signalled the requirement would likely be imposed on other venues.

He said at the time: “I don’t want to have to close nightclubs again as they have elsewhere. But it does mean nightclubs need to do the socially responsible thing.

“As we said last week, we do reserve the right to mandate certification at any point if it’s necessary to reduce transmission.

“And I should serve notice now that by the end of September, when all over-18s have had their chance to be double jabbed we’re planning to make full vaccination the condition of entry to nightclubs and other venues where large crowds gather.”

The Government has faced mounting Tory backbench anger over the vaccine passports plan, with critics arguing the documents are unnecessary and infringe on individual freedoms.

Worth reading in full.

Unvaccinated Brits to Be Barred From Large Venues Later This Year Following Government U-Turn

Just six months ago, Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi ruled out the introduction of “discriminatory” vaccine passports in England. “That’s not how we do things,” he said.

It didn’t take long, however, for the Government to tell nightclubs and other large venues that it was their “social responsibility” to check their customers’ Covid status. “Covid status” gave the impression that a negative test or recent recovery from the virus would be enough for entry to be granted as opposed to just full vaccination.

It has taken even less time for ministers to go one step further. With so few nightclubs having decided ‘voluntarily’ to introduce checks, Zahawi has announced that they will be forced to do so from late September. And this time, nothing short of full vaccination will open the door for entry, barring unvaccinated Brits from all such venues.

The Vaccines Minister said that Covid checks would be “discriminatory” if they were just based on vaccination only four days ago. So why the sudden change of mind?

Sky News has more.

Nadhim Zahawi said proof that people are fully vaccinated against coronavirus will be required for them to be allowed into nightclubs and other “crowded venues” from that point.

Until then, Covid passes – which show if you are vaccinated or have tested negative for the virus – will be required, although these are not mandatory for venues to operate.

In the Commons this afternoon, Mr Zahawi said: “By the end of September everyone aged 18 and over will have the chance to receive full vaccination and the additional two weeks for that protection to really take hold.

“So at that point we plan to make full vaccination a condition of entry to nightclubs and other venues where large crowds gather.

“Proof of a negative test will no longer be sufficient.”

Mr Zahawi promised that the plans would be subject to parliamentary scrutiny, and that there would be “appropriate” exemptions for people with a medical condition that means they cannot be vaccinated.

“We will always look at the evidence available and do all we can to ensure people can continue to do the things they love,” he added.

Worth reading in full.