Sunday shows: Burnham calls for “more sophisticated approach” to vaccination

Sophy Ridge on Sunday

Labour’s Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham discussed his call to prioritise vaccines for communities with lower life expectancy and stressed the need for a “more sophisticated approach” in the next phase of the roll-out. He urged the government not to return to the “divisive” tier system.

  • On his demand: “I’m not saying diverge completely from the phases set out by ages put forward by JCVI, but I am saying put greater supplies of the vaccine into those areas where life expectancy is lowest.”
  • On the next phase of the vaccination programme, beyond the most vulnerable age groups: “We need to adopt a more sophisticated approach if we are going to achieve what we all want to do, which is to protect more people and save lives.”
  • On prioritisation: “It stands to reason that people out on the frontline in a supermarket or public transport, who have poorer levels of health, are at greater risk than people who are at home and not particularly at risk.”
  • Asked whether he backs calls from Keir Starmer and Tony Blair to prioritise key workers: “No, I’m going to stick with what the JCVI has said.”
  • He added: “So, obviously they’ve set out nine categories based on age… What I am saying though this morning is have greater flexibility within that. Particularly teachers or support staff, I would say have a case to be brought forward.”
  • On teachers: “There is a case just to take teachers outside of the whole programme… But broadly, let’s have an approach here that sticks to what the JCVI has said but focuses more on communities that have poorest health.”
  • Asked when he thinks lockdown should ease: “Early March for schools to return feels about right to me. What I would say is, though, let’s not have a return to the tiers that we had before. We don’t believe they worked.”
  • On last year’s tiered system: “We don’t feel that the tiers worked. It was a divisive approach in the end and created a lot of confusion amongst the public as to the rules they were being asked to follow.”
  • On an alternative strategy: “The better approach we think would be a phased national release from lockdown… That also means keeping in place the national support for the sectors that will take longest to return.”
  • On new variants of the virus and easing lockdown restrictions: “The tiers weren’t strong enough to contain the old, milder form of the virus. They certainly won’t be strong enough to contain these new, more aggressive strains.”
  • On test, trace and isolate: “What isn’t working is support for people to self-isolate. That is the weak link in the chain. It’s our Achilles heel at the moment… We have to put in place a simple system that covers people’s wages.”
  • On reports that the government is planning to roll back privatisation in the NHS: “It’s a decade on when actually we really shouldn’t have gone down this way in the first place, but yes I do support it.”
  • But on increased centralisation within the health service: “What I wouldn’t support is a complete centralisation of the NHS, going to a very top-down approach.”
  • He added: “I have no problem at all with ministers having more control but they need to work to give more devolution to areas like Greater Manchester so we can work to take health out of its silo and link it to housing and all of the other things that build people’s health.”

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said the government is “very concerned” about lower take-up of the vaccine among some communities: “If one particular community remains unvaccinated, then the virus will seek them out and go through that community like wildfire.”

Zahawi said he is confident that the government will be able to meet its mid-February target in the vaccination roll-out and will be able to offer a jab to everyone over 50 by May. He said the “limiting factor” would be vaccine supply.

The government minister also warned viewers that the pace of vaccinations “will vary” as people proceed to get their second jab. He reported that the government is beginning to store second doses of the vaccination.

The Andrew Marr Show

Ed Miliband, the Shadow Business Secretary, defended Keir Starmer at the end of a difficult week for the Labour leader and spelled out the party’s priorities coming out of the coronavirus crisis.

  • On why Labour is behind in the polls despite the Covid death rate: “Leaders have good weeks and bad weeks. But what’s the most important thing Keir Starmer has said since he became leader? That after this crisis is over, there can be no return to business as usual.”
  • Giving an example of how Labour is different from the government, he raised the Universal Credit cut: “Keir Starmer has led the fight to say that would be the wrong thing to do.”
  • On vaccine passports: “I think we should be open to this. They may be necessary.” He stressed that the quarantine system set to be implemented will only cover 5% of arrivals to the UK.
  • On the leaked strategy document: “Of course we need to be a patriotic party. I find it pretty surprising that people think it would be controversial that Keir Starmer would appear with the Union Jack. But what is our patriotism? For me, my patriotism is the incredible pride I had in how British people have responded to this crisis.”
  • On the idea that many Labour MPs agree with Clive Lewis’ reaction: “I don’t think they do and I think Clive is wrong about that. I don’t agree with him. The flag matters.”
  • On whether those not proud of the flag should be expelled from the party: “No, of course not. People have different views about that. How you regard the flag is a matter of different opinions.”
  • On bridging the gap between ‘traditional’ Labour voters and the party’s members/MPs: “I think there is a coalition to be built in this country for a different approach in the future.” He highlighted Labour’s call to extend the business rates holiday, opposition to the UC cut and support for free school meals during holidays.
  • On whether a coal mine in Cumbria should open: “No, it shouldn’t… We’ve got to find alternatives for those people.” He added: “We can’t be opening new coal mines and then claiming to be a big climate leader.”
  • On Charlie Falconer saying Covid is a ‘gift that keeps on giving’ for lawyers: “He shouldn’t have said it. He said it in the context of lawyers and the way the law was changing, but it was a very poor choice of words.”

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