Minister is put in charge of vaccine rollout criticised tier system
Boris names a vaccine tsar: Minister who was furious his Stratford-on-Avon constituency had been plunged into Tier 3 is put in charge of mass-rollout as No 10 furiously tries to quell lockdown rebellion
- Nadhim Zahawi has been handed the role of deploying the coronavirus vaccine
- The Stratford-On-Avon MP has been vocal critic of Government’s tiered system
- His constituency will be thrust into Tier 3 lockdown despite low infection rates
A vocal critic of the Government’s tiered lockdown system has been put in charge of the UK’s vaccine rollout.
Stratford-On-Avon MP Nadhim Zahawi has been temporarily appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Health Department.
The role – which is set to last until next Summer at the earliest – will involve him deploying the eagerly-awaited coronavirus vaccine across the country.
The newly-appointed vaccine tsar has criticised Government’s tiered structure which will see his constituency thrust into Tier 3 lockdown next week despite low infection rates.
The news of Mr Zahawi’s new role comes amid a brewing Tory rebellion as furious backbenchers accuse the Government of risking catastrophic damage to the economy with its controversial system for life post-national lockdown.
One furious MP predicted that as many as 70 MPs would rebel against the measures in a Commons showdown next week, which could see Boris Johnson relying on support from Labour to get the new restrictions approved.
Their anger has been fuelled by reports that it was ‘unrealistic’ to expect areas under the toughest Covid curbs – Tiers 2 and 3 – to move down to Tier 1 before spring, in a plan dubbed a ‘virtual lockdown’.
Stratford-On-Avon MP Nadhim Zahawi has been temporarily appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Health Department
Stratford-upon-avon – which resides in the local government district of Stratford-on-Avon – has been thrust into Tier Three lockdown. Pictured: Purple indicates an infection rate of more than 400 cases per 100,000 people in the week ending November 21, dark blue = 201-400, light blue = 101-200, turquoise = 51-100, green = 11-50, yellow = 0-10
Almost the entire nation is set to be banned from socialising indoors until Easter, officials admitted last night. The senior sources said it was ‘unrealistic’ to expect areas under the toughest curbs – Tiers 2 and 3 – to move down to Tier 1 before spring
Warwickshire – where Mr Zahawi’s constituency of Stratford-on-Avon resides – will see pubs, bars and restaurants remain closed when England’s national lockdown ends on December 2.
Although the Warwickshire town’s already low rates are falling still further, it has found itself lumped in with the rest of the county. Yet towns in nearby Oxfordshire and Worcestershire, with higher rates, are in Tier Two.
Stratford has an infection rate of 105.3 per 100,000. Among the over-60s the rate is even lower, at 74 per 100,000, while the hospitalisation rate is also low, with fewer than two people a day being admitted.
The town recorded 137 new cases in the week ending November 22 – a drop of 67.
At a more local level, the area of Stratford South East and Torrington had just four cases – a rate of 48.2 per 100,000. But nearby Redditch in Worcestershire, with a rate of 240 cases per 100,000, is in Tier Two.
Following the Government’s announcement, Mr Zahawi said: ‘I am hugely disappointed and sad that Warwickshire will be moving into Tier 3 next week, in particular because of the effect this will have on our hospitality and tourism industries who have already been through so much this year.
Under a ‘virtual lockdown’ revealed on Thursday, 99 per cent of the population was put in the top two tiers, which ban household gatherings and cripple the hospitality trade
‘It seems that the high numbers of infections, especially among those over 60, and hospitalisations in the north of the county have counted against us.
‘I understand the concerns raised by large numbers of constituents about why the restrictions in Stratford-on-Avon are being affected by factors in areas further away from us than from our immediate neighbours, such as Worcestershire and Oxfordshire, both of whom will be moving into Tier 2 next week.’
Following his appointment, a Downing Street said in a statement: ‘The Queen has been pleased to approve the appointment of Nadhim Zahawi MP as a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Health and Social Care.
‘He remains a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.’
Mr Zahawi will focus on the deployment of the coronavirus vaccine, with the temporary arrangement set to last until at least next summer.
Michael Gove today issued a stark warning to Tory backbenchers planning on rebelling against the tiered system in the commons next week.
The Cabinet Office minister urged MPs to ‘take responsibility for difficult decisions’ to curb the spread of Covid-19, amid anger from some Conservatives that much of England will face stringent restrictions.
Writing in The Times today, Mr Gove said the decision to impose the restrictions was necessary to ‘pull the handbrake’ and avoid the ‘disaster’ of NHS hospitals – and private sector and newly-built Nightingale hospitals – becoming filled to capacity with only Covid patients and emergency cases.
‘Keeping our hospitals open, available and effective was not just crucial to dealing with Covid-19. It was imperative for the health of the whole nation,’ the pro-shutdown Tory minister argued.
‘But the only way to ensure we can take care of cancer patients, administer radiotherapy and chemotherapy, and help stroke victims and treat heart attacks is by protecting the NHS,’ he said, adding this could only be done by reducing the spread of the virus and thus limiting the number of Covid patients in hospitals.
Mr Gove also claimed that reducing infections would save the UK economy, which has been decimated by shutdown restrictions that prevent the trade of the hospitality industry and retail, tourism and air travel.
As official forecasts warn that the national debt could soar to £2.8trillion by 2025, he warned: ‘Think for a moment what would happen to our economy if we allowed infections to reach such a level that our NHS was overwhelmed.’
But his argument was attacked by former Supreme Court judge Lord Sumption today, who blasted the Government’s use of ‘extremely selective and tendentious’ data to justify shutdowns.
Lord Sumption, last year’s BBC Reith Lecturer, also told Radio 4’s Today programme that the Tiering system was ‘unenforceable’ and suggested that the public was growing increasingly unwilling to comply.
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