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Keep “mitigations” to ensure safe Covid unlocking, urges Labour – LabourList


The Andrew Marr Show

Kate Green, the Shadow Education Secretary, spelled out Labour’s position on the July 19th reopening, specifically the need to keep certain measures in place such as mandatory mask-wearing in public places and testing in schools.

  • Asked whether Labour is still comfortable with reopening: “We do want to see the reopening on the 19th July [subject to the data]… but what we also say is it’s unwise to be reopening on 19th July and at the same time removing all the mitigations that could help to bear down on that spread of infections. For example, removing mandatory mask-wearing in public places we think is a mistake. We think more could be done to make sure that public spaces are properly ventilated… people who do need to self-isolate need, if they are on low incomes, to be financially supported to do that.”
  • She said Labour supports reopening pubs, thinks social distancing is “something we should try to continue” and believes test and trace “hasn’t been working as well it is supposed to”.
  • On domestic vaccine passports: “We’ve got to be very careful about the use of passports tho at would stigmatise or discriminate against for example young people. But I do think if you’ve been doubled jabbed there can be some relaxations that are sensible in the context of the risk.” She gave the example of international travel.
  • On measures in schools, she said Labour backs more social distancing, mask wearing (saying it is “surprising” this is no longer mandatory) and the return of testing in school.

Nadhim Zahawi employed a more cautious tone than the government has used until now.

  • He said there is an “expectation for people to wear masks indoors, in crowded places, on public transport”. He added that there is both a “personal responsibility” and a “corporate responsibility”.
  • The vaccines minister confirmed the NHS is preparing for co-administration of the Covid and flu jabs, and to clear the backlog of non-Covid treatment needed.
  • He admitted that the link between infection and hospitalisation or death is “weakened”, not “severed” as Boris Johnson claimed during PMQs, but would not say that the PM misled parliament.
  • Zahawi said we needed to “harness” a “Gareth Southgate spirit”.
  • Pressed on whether hospitality staff should delete the track and trace app or see their businesses go under, the minister said the app was developed when there were no vaccines and “we have to tweak it”.

Trevor Phillips on Sunday

Kate Green urged the government to keep “mitigations in place that would enable that to happen more safely” when unlocking on July 19th and criticised the government’s ‘freedom of speech bill’.

  • Asked whether Labour would support a reduction in the waiting time between first and second Covid jabs: “If there is advice from the JCVI that that would be a safe and sensible measure, we’ve always said that it’s right to act on the advice.”
  • On lifting Covid public health restrictions on July 19th: “We do want to see restrictions lifted on the 19th – subject to the data, and I think we’re still waiting for that final data in the coming day or two.”
  • She added: “What we don’t want is to lift the restrictions without keeping mitigations in place that would enable that to happen more safely.”
  • On those mitigations: “Mandatory mask-wearing should continue in public places. It’s why we’ve said there should be more support and requirement on public places to have proper ventilation systems. It’s why we’ve said that the support for people on low incomes who have to isolate needs to be adequate.”
  • On mask-wearing: “People want to wear masks. Most people feel more comfortable and confident when others are wearing masks around them. And I think this ‘oh, we’ll leave it up to individuals’… that’s a recipe for confusion.”
  • Asked whether mayors Andy Burnham and Sadiq Khan will require masks on public transport in Manchester and London: “I hope they will, and I believe Andy has already indicated that here in Manchester that’s what he will do.”
  • On people being fired or no-platformed for comments on trans’ rights: “There are and always have been a small and very small number of instances and I think that those examples that you gave… were probably wrong.”
  • On the number of events cancelled at universities: “In the last year for which we have data, out of 10,000 events only six were cancelled. Four because they had the wrong paperwork. One went to another venue. One was a pyramid scheme.”
  • She added: “There are a very small number of events that are cancelled… There is obviously a concern about the atmosphere, the climate on campus, but that cuts both ways.”
  • On the higher education (freedom of speech) bill and its effect on universities: “If we have, as I believe this legislation does, a law that allows people actually to come on campus as holocaust deniers, to spread hate speech, anti-vaxxers – I don’t think that’s in the public interest.”

Nadhim Zahawi said he is “confident” that the country can proceed to step four of the Covid unlocking ‘roadmap’.

  • He said the guidance will include that “people are expected to wear masks in indoor enclosed spaces and of course to remain vigilant with hands, face”.
  • He said the eight-week interval between doses of the vaccine, brought down from the initial 12-week period, is “much better than having the interval shortened any further”.
  • On the slowing vaccination rate: “These are the hard yards… We’re almost at 87% of all adults have now got their first does. The majority, we were running at about 96%, returned for their second dose. I want to get that to 100% if I can. The ONS also say that 96% of all adults will very likely take the vaccine.”
  • On the test and trace system and isolating, he said the government is considering “being able to take five days of lateral flow tests and upload them rather than having to self-isolate”.

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