France fiasco leaves Cabinet at war: Sajid Javid is accused of spooking PM into putting country on Amber-plus list on the day study said the AstraZeneca jab DOES beat Beta variant
- Sajid Javid has been accused of spooking the PM into adding to Amber-plus list
- The move came as study showed the AstraZeneca jab does beat the Delta variant
- Decision was made by the PM, Javid, without Transport Secretary Grant Shapps
- It has thrown holidaymakers plans into chaos with the prospect of quarantine
Insiders say the decision – which has thrown the plans of thousands of holidaymakers into chaos by requiring them to quarantine for up to ten days even if they are double vaccinated against coronavirus – was taken at a meeting on July 16 attended by Mr Javid, Mr Johnson and senior scientific advisers, but not Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.
A source claimed Mr Javid had overreacted to claims that the AstraZeneca vaccine might not work against the South African – or Beta – variant, which is responsible for about ten per cent of Covid-19 cases in France, although many are in its Indian Ocean territories of Reunion and Mayotte.
In fact, on the day the decision was taken, new research was available showing a single AZ dose was 83 per cent effective at stopping hospitalisations caused by the South African strain, only slightly lower than its 88 per cent protection against the Indian (Delta) variant.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid was last night accused of ‘frightening’ Boris Johnson into making his ill-fated decision to move France into the Amber-plus travel category
Insiders say the decision was taken at a meeting on July 16 attended by Mr Javid, Mr Johnson and senior scientific advisers, but not Transport Secretary Grant Shapps
The Mail on Sunday understands that another fear raised by Government advisers was the theoretical risk of someone becoming simultaneously infected with both Beta and Delta strains, leading to a ‘recombined’ mutant with turbo-charged transmissability and vaccine resistance.
To compound days of damaging headlines over its handling of the pandemic, the Government may now be forced to take France off the Amber-plus list within a week.
The source said: ‘Saj frightened the PM to death. Shapps was so p****d off that the decision was taken without him being present. No 10 and the Department of Health must now be feeling pretty f****** stupid after the backlash.’
The meeting on July 16 took place shortly before Mr Javid tested positive for Covid-19, a result that has forced the Prime Minister to quarantine at Chequers, his country estate in Buckinghamshire.
Jonathan Van-Tam, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer, is understood to have lobbied hard for France to be classified as Amber-plus, or even Red, which would force returning travellers to pay for ten days in a quarantine hotel.
Some MPs have privately expressed surprise at reports that it was Mr Javid who persuaded the Prime Minister to return France to quarantine controls because the Health Secretary had been expected to be less cautious on Covid restrictions than Matt Hancock, his predecessor.
A source told the Mail on Sunday that Transport Secretary Grant ‘Shapps was so p****d off that the decision was taken without him being present’
The decision has thrown the plans of thousands of holidaymakers into chaos by requiring them to quarantine for up to ten days even if they are double vaccinated against coronavirus
But the source claimed that Mr Javid ‘already appears to have gone native’ and had been ‘captured’ by his officials. The row came as:
- Infections fell for the fourth day in a row, with 31,795 cases, down from 46,558 on July 20;
- The vaccination rollout neared its latest milestone with 70 per cent of adults – 36.9 million people – expected to have been fully vaccinated by today;
- Downing Street prepares to launch a social media blitz to persuade the young to have the jab by highlighting the 33 countries they can visit if double vaccinated;
- Labour warned holiday plans of nearly six million Britons could be ruined if Spain and Greece – where the Beta variant is also in circulation – joins France on the Amber-plus list. Shadow Transport Secretary Jim McMahon accused Mr Johnson of ‘presiding over a summer of chaos’;
- On the busiest travel weekend of the year, people arriving at Heathrow had to wait up to three hours at passport control after the pingdemic left one official on duty;
- Ministers and officials are due to meet tomorrow to discuss expanding the number of test centres for key workers who can avoid isolating if they record daily negative tests. Meanwhile, aviation experts said flights were being cancelled or moved at short notice in part due to the pingdemic problem;
- Allies of Mr Johnson compared his battle with coronavirus to Margaret Thatcher’s fight against inflation in the 1980s.
Mr Javid yesterday announced that he had made a full recovery and that his ‘symptoms were very mild, thanks to amazing vaccines’.
He tweeted: ‘Please – if you haven’t yet – get your jab, as we learn to live with, rather than cower from, this virus.’
Last night the Government sought to defuse the row over the France quarantine decision by insisting it had been made on expert advice.
A spokesman said: ‘The Joint Biosecurity Centre assessed that France is a high-risk Covid-19 destination due to the circulation of variants of concern, most notably the Beta variant, which is the variant that presents the greatest risk for vaccine escape.’
He said that with restrictions easing for double-vaccinated travellers, the Government’s priority was ‘to stop the spread of Covid-19, including protecting our borders from the threat of variants.
‘The decision to add countries to the Red, Amber or Green lists is made jointly by Ministers, informed by the latest scientific data and public health advice and taking into account a range of factors.’