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Minister reverses time in vaccinations gaffe

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi appeared to have discovered time travel in an interview today, when he suggested that children returning to schools in March would have additional protection because of people being vaccinated in April.

Mr Zahawi got his dates tangled in an early-morning TV interview ahead of the unveiling of Boris Johnson’s roadmap to take England out of lockdown.

Challenged over the danger that the return of children to school on 8 March might increase coronavirus infections, he said that the date had been carefully chosen to be three weeks after the mid-April deadline for giving a first dose of vaccine to all over-50s.

As the Covid-19 vaccines take three weeks to offer their maximum effect, he suggested that this would reduce the risk of infection from children mingling at school and bringing infection back home. 

However, he did not appear to notice that three weeks after mid-April would take him to a date in May, not early March. The 8 March date was in fact chosen because it is three weeks after the successfully-hit deadline of giving a first dose of vaccine to over-70s.

Mr Zahawi told Sky News that the reopening of schools was being done in a“gradual cautious” way. 

“It is not a coincidence that 8 March is the date that we have focused on, because if you take the mid-April date when we will have given at least one dose to all over-50s – offered that one-dose protection to all over-50s – three weeks after the middle of April takes you to the first week of March.”

Mr Zahawi said that completion of the “phase one” group of vaccinations, covering over-50s, health and care workers and people with certain clinical conditions, would mean that 99 per cent of those at risk of dying from coronavirus would have been offered protection.

“So it’s no coincidence that we are opening schools after three weeks of protecting the over-50s,” he said.

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