Sajid Javid

After Vaccine Passports Were ‘Scrapped’, Government Refuses To Rule Out Passes for Pubs

The Health Secretary says vaccine passport checks could be imposed on pubs if “something happens that means that we have to take further measures” but continues to dodge the question of what exactly “something” means. The Times has the story.

The Government will refuse to set a specific threshold when action is to be taken but ministers are understood to be considering publishing a list of indicators.

Javid said that such measures were being monitored “on a daily basis”, with the NHS and the Joint Biosecurity Centre involved. He told the BBC that “there won’t be any single trigger”. He added: “There are a number of measures we are going to keep under close watch with our friends in the NHS. That of course includes hospitalisations, it includes the pressure on A&E, on the ambulance services, staffing levels.”

Javid refused to rule out compulsory certification for everyday life, alarming many Tory backbenchers who have branded the Government’s plan “a slippery slope towards more restrictions”.

Ministers believe that as a last resort vaccine passports are preferable to lockdown measures and could be a way to keep open hospitality businesses.

Javid told the radio station LBC that he didn’t think the country would need vaccine passports to go to the pub. He added a caveat, however: “Unless… something happens that means that we have to take further measures.”

He said that contingency plans “may well include vaccine passports as a reserve measure”. He cited a new variant that was more infectious or vaccine resistant, saying “in that situation, we have to be ready to take further action”. …

On Tuesday Johnson said that he had “never been in favour of vaccine passports for pubs” but that they might have been a “game changer” last year.

“It’s just not sensible to rule out completely this kind of option now when we must face the fact that it might still make the difference between keeping business open at full capacity or not,” he told a Downing Street press conference.

“If you think a year ago, where we were last September, can you imagine if we’d had then . . . if we’d had Covid certification?

“We would have been able, with that tool, to keep open businesses that had been forced to close and were going through an absolutely wretched time. They would’ve been a game changer, a lifesaver, last year. So I think they’re an important part of our repertoire.”

Worth reading in full.

Health Secretary Attempts to Outline What Could Trigger ‘Plan B’ This Winter

Just as plans for vaccine passports at ‘large venues’ left us wondering where exactly the measures would be enforced, we have been left in the dark about what will push the Government to enact ‘Plan B’ (including mask mandates and vaccine passes) or ‘Plan C’ (another full lockdown) this winter. Health Secretary Sajid Javid attempted to clarify the issue this morning but was coy about the specifics. Sky News has the story.

The Health Secretary has said A&E pressures and increasing Covid hospital admissions could trigger the Government’s Plan B for the winter – as experts warned hospital admissions could reach 7,000 a day.

Sajid Javid added that a new variant of concern would not necessarily be a trigger as he refused to rule out a lockdown.

Plan B, which includes mandatory face masks, a work from home order and vaccine passports, was revealed by the Government on Tuesday as part of the autumn and winter plan for dealing with the Covid pandemic.

The Health Secretary told Sky News: “What happens in the NHS is going to be hugely important to me, to the whole country, making sure that we don’t get to a position again where the NHS becomes unsustainable.

“I think we’re going to have to look at a number of measures, so of course that would be the level of hospitalisation, it will be the pressures on A&E, the pressures on the workforce, so we’d have to take all of these together.”

However, he refused to put a number on how many cases or admissions would trigger plan B.

Worth reading in full.

The Unintended Consequences of Vaccine Passports

On Sunday, Health Secretary Sajid Javid stated in a BBC interview: “I am pleased to say that we will not be going ahead with plans for vaccine passports.” However, Number 10 has since clarified that vaccine passports are still a “first-line defence” against a winter wave of COVID-19.  

Whatever the Government’s true position – it seems to depend on exactly whom you’re talking to – introducing vaccine passports could have harmful unintended consequences, even aside from the threat they pose to civil liberties.

It’s now clear that, while the vaccines do provide strong protection against severe disease, their efficacy against infection is much more limited. In July, the Israeli Ministry of Health reported that the Pfizer vaccine’s effectiveness against infection had dropped to just 39%.

And an unpublished study by Qatari researchers found that the vaccine’s effectiveness against infection fell to zero after six months. (Though its effectiveness against severe, critical or fatal COVID-19 remained high for the study’s duration.)

The apparent decline in the Pfizer vaccine’s effectiveness may explain why Israel – which began vaccinating its citizens in late December – recently posted its largest daily total for the number of new infections since the pandemic began.

As many commentators have pointed out, the vaccines’ limited efficacy against infection rather undermines the case for vaccine passports. If vaccinated people are still capable of transmitting the virus, restricting attendance of large events to those who can show proof of vaccination is no guarantee of safety.

It would make more sense to create passports exclusively for those who’ve already been infected, since natural immunity seems to provide stronger protection against infection than the Pfizer vaccine. (I’m not seriously entertaining this proposal.)

The fact that vaccine passports wouldn’t have a large effect on spread isn’t the only problem. If implemented carelessly, they could actually lead to more COVID deaths.

How so? If vulnerable people (such as elderly persons for whom vaccines are less effective) are led to believe – wrongly – that the vaccines have strong efficacy against infection, they might take more risks than they otherwise would. For example, they might attend a large event, only to then become seriously ill with COVID-19.

Of course, the number of people in that category is likely to be small. But the hypothetical illustrates that vaccine passports aren’t simply a nuisance or a threat to civil liberties; they could even harm those they’re intended to help.

The small number of people still vulnerable to COVID-19 may need to continue taking precautions until more natural immunity is built up in the population. Vaccine passports will offer these people little protection in the meantime.

If the Government isn’t Following the Science When it Comes to Vaccinating Children, Who is it Following?

We are publishing a guest post today by Dr. Peter Hayes, a Senior Lecturer in Politics at the University of Sunderland, pointing out that when it comes to vaccinating healthy 12-15 year-olds the Government can no longer claim to be following the science.

“Follow The Science” has been the defining slogan of Covid policymaking for the past year and a half. However, we may now be at turning point. On September 3rd, that august and scientific body The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advised not to start vaccinating otherwise healthy 12-15 year-olds. The Government, however, seems likely to set about vaccinating them anyway.

In his letter to chief medical officers, Health Secretary Sajid Javid says that the JCVI is against vaccination of 12-15 year olds because its margin of benefit against harm is “too small” and tacitly suggests that the officers come up with something to enable him to override this advice. However, Javid’s spin on the committee’s advice is misleading. It is not only the marginal benefits of the vaccine but also the unknown extent of its harms that has led the JCVI to recommend against it.

(1) The JCVI states that in advising whether or not to vaccinate it has focused on “the benefit to children and young people themselves, weighed against any potential harms from vaccination”, and that it has done this to the exclusion of other issues such as cost.

(2) It states that overall “the benefits from vaccination are marginally greater than the potential known harms” [emphasis added].

All 16 and 17 Year-Olds to be Offered Jab Next Week

All 16 and 17 year-olds will be offered a Covid vaccine in the next week in a bid to boost immunity before the return of schools in September. The Telegraph has more.

The new drive to offer all 16 and 17-year-olds a jab by Monday August 23rd is intended to allow antibodies to build before the start of the autumn term on September 1st.

It comes after experts said the U.K. was “running hot” in terms of living with Covid. The Government said a further 93 people had died within 28 days of testing positive as of Saturday, bringing the U.K. total to 130,894.

NHS bosses said on Saturday night that further walk-in vaccination centres would come on line in the coming days.

“I have asked the NHS in England to ensure they offer a first dose of the vaccine to everyone aged 16 and 17 by next Monday, August 23rd. This will make sure everybody has the opportunity to get vital protection before returning to college or sixth form,” Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, said.

“Please don’t delay – get your jabs as soon as you can so we can continue to safely live with this virus and enjoy our freedoms by giving yourself, your family and your community the protection they need.”

Worth reading in full.

Hard to see the logic behind this, given that 16 and 17 year-olds aren’t vulnerable to the disease and getting vaccinated will have a negligible effect on how likely they are to catch COVID-19 and pass it on to others. Being vaccinated won’t make them “safe” – they’re already safe – and it won’t make people who are genuinely at risk from COVID-19 any “safer” either.

NHS Waiting List Could Hit 14 Million in England by Next Autumn, According to IFS Report

A new report by the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) says that the NHS waiting list in England could reach 14 million by next autumn and could then continue to increase “as the number joining the waiting list exceeds the number being treated”. And this, according to the author of the report, is just the beginning: “Much longer waiting lists [could] be with us for years to come.” Sky News has the story.

Currently, the number of people waiting to start routine hospital treatment is at a record high – 5.3 million, according to latest figures.

But the IFS has warned in its new report that there is a massive backlog of people still to come forward for treatment, largely caused by Covid [what about lockdown?].

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the number of people on waiting lists could rise to 13 million in the coming months, but the IFS projects that the total could eventually surpass the Health Secretary’s figure.

“In our first scenario, 80% of the approximately seven million ‘missing’ patients return over the next year, the NHS operates at 90% of its 2019 capacity this year and next, and then at 100% capacity from 2023 onwards,” it says.

“Under this scenario, waiting lists would soar to 14 million by the autumn of 2022 and then continue to climb, as the number joining the waiting list exceeds the number being treated.”

The IFS said while it is unlikely all patients will return due to the fact some will have died and others might have had private treatment, most will probably require treatment at some point soon, especially as virus cases decrease and “people are more willing to seek health care”.

Max Warner, the author of the analysis, said: “There is a real risk that if the NHS cannot find effective ways to boost its capacity – a challenge at the best of times, let alone after a major pandemic – then much longer waiting lists will be with us for years to come.”

Worth reading in full.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid Tests Positive for Covid

Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who has had two doses of the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine, is self-isolating with his family after he tested positive for the virus. Javid says his symptoms are “very mild” and has urged unvaccinated Brits to get ‘jabbed’ “as soon as you can”.

BBC News has the story.

Mr Javid, who became Health Secretary in June, said he had taken a lateral flow test after feeling a “bit groggy” on Friday night and it was positive. 

He said he was now self-isolating until he got the results of a PCR test. …

In a video posted on his Twitter feed, Mr Javid said: “I was feeling a bit groggy last night, so I took a lateral flow test this morning and it’s come out positive, so I’m now self-isolating at home with my family until I get the results of a PCR test.” 

“I’m grateful that I’ve had two jabs of the vaccine and so far my symptoms are very mild.” 

He urged people who had not been vaccinated yet to “get out there and get them as soon as you can”.

Mr Javid also said people who feel groggy or come into contact with someone who is positive should take a lateral flow test.

“If everyone plays their part, you’re not only protecting yourself and your loved ones but you’re also safeguarding the NHS and helping to preserve our way of life,” the Health Secretary added.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Half the Cabinet could be pinged within a few days, according to MailOnline, including Boris.

Restrictions Could be Reintroduced Locally After “Freedom Day” to Deal With New Variants, Says Sajid Javid

We have been assured that our unlocking will be “irreversible” – that July 19th is the “terminus date” for Covid restrictions (in England, at least). These words would be comforting if only they were matched by Government action. Alas, laws allowing local authorities to bring back restrictions on businesses and social contact in case of Covid outbreaks or – of course – new variants are being kept at least until the end of September, Sajid Javid has confirmed. The i has the story.

Ministers will retain laws that allow local authorities to shut down businesses, prohibit certain events, or close outdoor public spaces “in case of a local breakout” or in case a new dangerous variant emerges, the Health Secretary told MPs.

“We will be keeping in place contingency measures, particularly for local authorities, the so-called Number Three regulations, at least until the end of September, in case those powers are needed in the case of a local breakout,” Mr Javid told the Commons.

He added: “Of course there’s no intention at this point that those powers will be used but we believe it is necessary to have powers in place just in case.

“You would have heard me earlier talk about the risk that still exists from new variants and that is the plan.”

The so-called Number Three laws were first introduced in July 2020 to give local authorities the power to respond to “a serious and imminent threat” to public health by managing Covid transmission.

They form a patchwork of legislation that was used to govern local lockdowns in the second half of 2020.

But Boris Johnson decided to scrap the approach and impose another national lockdown in England in January after a series of painful negotiations over restrictions with local leaders like Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham.

Worth reading in full.

SAGE Scientist “Frightened” by Sajid Javid’s More Lax Approach to Covid

Professor Stephen Reicher, a leading SAGE Psychologist, says the new Health Secretary’s view that people should learn to live with Covid “as we already do with flu” is “frightening”, despite such a large proportion of the population (including the most vulnerable to the virus) having been vaccinated. Professor Reicher criticised Sajid Javid for wanting “to ditch all protections while only half of us are [fully] vaccinated”. “The key message of the pandemic,” he said on Twitter, “is this isn’t an ‘I’ thing, it’s a ‘we’ thing. Your behaviour affects my health.”

The MailOnline has more.

The broadside from the University of St Andrews academic comes after Mr Javid, who replaced disgraced Matt Hancock last weekend after the former Health Secretary was caught flouting lockdown with his mistress, called the health reasons for lifting restrictions “compelling”.

Writing in the Mail on Sunday, the new Health Secretary says the U.K. is “on track” to escape almost every vestige of lockdown on July 19th, adding: “We will have a country that is not just freer, but healthier, too.”

But he makes no secret of the challenges he faces as Health Secretary, admitting that he has “the biggest in-tray I’ve had at any department – and I’ve run five”. …

The Prime Minister is preparing to announce a raft of measures to come into force from July 19th which will “make Britain the most open country in Europe”. Under plans expected to be signed off by the Cabinet tomorrow, fully-vaccinated people will be able to travel to “Amber List” countries including Spain and Greece without having to self-isolate when they return.

The school “bubbles” system that has seen hundreds of thousands of pupils being forced to self-isolate at home will be axed and replaced with daily testing, while hospitality businesses will no longer have to demand that customers provide their personal data or sign in with a “QR” code.

Worth reading in full.

Sajid Javid: “We Are Going to Have to Find Ways to Cope With Covid, Just as We Do With Flu”

Signalling a change in tone and perhaps strategy, new Health Secretary Sajid Javid has said that “we are going to have to learn to accept Covid and find ways to cope with it, just as we do with flu”. Writing in tomorrow’s Mail on Sunday, according to a preview tweet from Freddie Sayers, Javid says that while the economic arguments for reopening are well known, “for me the health case is equally compelling”, pointing to record NHS backlogs that are getting worse.

In a possible nod towards the “new normal”, he adds: “We need to build on the changes we’ve all embraced in the pandemic.” However, the examples he gives are not contentious for sceptics: improving the delivery of healthcare using NHS 111, the NHS app and pharmacies.

It’s certainly an encouraging message from the new Health Secretary, and better than anything we ever heard from Matt Hancock. Now for the hard bit: putting it into action, against the doom-mongers on SAGE, the vested interests of those profiting from the emergency, the psychological comforts of those who seem to like the idea of permanent restrictions, and the unions for whom no imposition on others is too great to achieve a slight reduction of risk.

Already there is the notable absence of the promised review of the lockdown extension in time for a possible July 5th reopening, which was supposed to appear on June 28th. Boris Johnson appeared to rule it out last week but there has been no official announcement and July 5th is this Monday. It seems that we are just supposed to assume it isn’t happening.