politics

Sajid Javid brands anti-vaxxers outside school gates ‘idiots’



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he Health Secretary has branded anti-vaxxers who station themselves outside schools “idiots” and said exclusion zones could be put in place to stop protesters harassing parents and children.

Three children were reportedly injured during one protest.

Sajid Javid told Sky News it was “heartbreaking” that teachers and children were being threatened.

“These people are doing so much damage,” he said.

“First of all here you have three children that are injured, actually physically injured, and that’s heartbreaking to see, children going about what they should be doing, going to school every day, and you’ve got frankly these idiots outside their school spreading vicious lies.”

The Association of School and College Leaders has said that of the 526 responses from schools eligible for the Covid vaccination programme for 12 to 15-year-olds, 13 per cent had seen protesters outside their premises and 20 per cent reported protesters in the local area.

Some 18 schools said campaigners had gained access and protested inside the school premises and 20 said they had received threats of physical harm to staff.

Mr Javid said there were several options to stop the protesters, including the introduction of exclusion zones around schools.

“It is becoming a growing problem as time goes by,” he said. “There are options, in terms of whether it’s an exclusion zone, or other potential action, I think it’s got to be done at a local level.”

It follows Home Secretary Priti Patel saying it is “completely unacceptable” for anti-vaccination campaigners to be harassing members of the public outside school gates.

Labour has called for councils to be able to use public spaces protection orders (PSPOs) to address harassment outside schools.

Sir Keir Starmer said: “It is sickening that anti-vax protesters are spreading dangerous misinformation to children in protests outside of schools.

“Labour believes the law around PSPOs urgently needs to be updated so that local authorities can rapidly create exclusion zones for anti-vax protests outside of schools.”

PSPOs can be used to disperse people from a public area and have previously been used to move on protesters outside abortion clinics or to allow police to confiscate alcohol or move on homeless people in certain spaces.

But gaining permission to impose one takes time and consultation.

Labour called for an expedited process in cases of preventing harassment and intimidation of children outside schools if agreed to by the school, the leader of the local council, and the local police chief constable.

The party said the PSPO could be in place within five days and could be in place for six months.



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