Labour deputy leader Rayner: Boris Johnson has ‘completely undermined’ Covid efforts
In the UK, Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner has been doing the media round this morning. She has called for the government to act on sick pay for those affected by the Omicron variant and the new measures, and also for more effort to be made on ventilation in schools. She told Sky News:
We had a meeting, and Keir Starmer spoke to the Chief Medical Officer and had a briefing from those in the position of knowledge, who said that we need to take these measures. So the Labour Party are clear that we’re following the medical and the science and expert advice on this, and we hope that people will do that. Boris Johnson has completely undermined those efforts. And we you know, it’s incredibly disappointing.
I am calling on the government today to provide sick pay for people. This is a massive big problem when it comes to people being able to do the right thing and self isolate. They need sick pay so that that can happen. And that will help control the virus.
And we need to make sure that we have proper ventilation in schools. It’s cold this time of year. Many schools have still not got adequate ventilation. We know this would help and we know the infection spreads in school.
So we’re calling on the government to step up their efforts to make sure that people have got access to the booster jabs, access to vaccines, but also to fix sick pay, and that they sort out the situation with ventilation in our schools.
Martin Kettle’s latest column has his focus on the Boris Johnson Christmas party furore. He writes:
The question facing British politics today is whether the image of a Downing Street Christmas party, and the excruciating insensitivity there would be in holding it on a day when nearly 500 people were dying of Covid, maybe the event to burst Johnson’s bubble. Last week an online video spoof showed Johnson receiving a Covid booster jab, then shrivelling up like an empty balloon. That video was someone’s fantasy. Now nature is imitating art. It was a deflated Johnson, a rare sight in any season, who turned up to answer prime minister’s questions today.
ITV’s toe-curling video of staffers smirking and joking about the party is the real thing, not a spoof. The reality is portrayed is likely to lodge in the collective mind. In less than a minute, the video captures all the shallow amateurism of modern politics: its absence of moral awareness, its capacity for awful judgment and its corrosive sense of entitlement, acted out against the backdrop of a wholly unnecessary, flag-draped new briefing room that is an expensive monument to a man-child prime minister’s ego and his absurd great-man view of himself.
Prof Andrew Hayward, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) from University College London, has described the new restrictions in England as “an essential first move.”
PA Media quote him telling Sky News “virus is moving very fast so we must react to that fast”.
He said a doubling time of every two to three days was “very fast” and “you’ll get a very large peak”.
“And it’s a bit like if you think of a month’s worth of rain falling in a few days, that leads to flooding and it’s a similar type of scenario … we can reduce that by reducing social mixing and allow time to slow the virus down and get the vaccine into more people’s arms.”
He said Plan B measures will “slow the spread” but “it’s not going to turn it around”, adding: “I think you would need much more severe restrictions to turn it around, but I think what the encouraging thing is that we’ve started to see, through some of the laboratory data, is sort of that third dose of vaccine is providing much better immunity, whereas just with the two doses, it’s not so good.
“So this idea of slowing it down… more social distancing, not going to work if you don’t have to, not going on public transport to go to work when you don’t have to, will make a difference.
“I think it’s very difficult to predict whether that’s going to be enough but I think it’s an essential first move.”