Johnson rejects Gove remark that Covid vaccine refusers are ‘selfish’

Boris Johnson has rejected Michael Gove’s assertion that people who refuse to be vaccinated are “selfish”, as he and another minister argued that it was better to encourage people to see the positive benefits of receiving the jab.

In an interview with LBC radio, the prime minister was asked about comments by Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, on Tuesday, where he said: “If you can be vaccinated and you refuse to, that’s a selfish act.”

Johnson said: “I would put it the other way round. If you get one, you’re doing something massively positive, for yourself, for your family.”

Thérèse Coffey, the work and pensions secretary, also did not support Gove when asked about his remarks.

“I think there are still quite a lot of people who are still scared,” Coffey said, also speaking to LBC. “We want to encourage people to recognise the vaccine is safe and actually will help them but also other people around them too. I just really want to encourage people to be positive about the benefits to them, but also to wider society.”

Johnson also sounded notably less keen than Gove on the idea of domestic Covid certification, such as the plan, announced by the prime minister last week, that from late September anyone going to a nightclub or similarly packed venue would need to prove they had been double-vaccinated, something strongly opposed by a number of Tory MPs.

Gove had said domestic Covid passports were “the right way to go” for some venues so “people can be confident that those who are attending those events are less likely to be carriers of the virus” – and specifically cited Premier League matches.

Asked if he supported the idea, Johnson said only: “I think it’s a very positive thing to do to get a vaccine.”

Pressed on whether he still backed vaccine passports, the prime minister was again less than effusive: “I think it’s a very positive thing to do to go and get a vaccine. And as I said the other day in one of those press conferences, people can obviously see when you look at things like travel, like mass events, that it’s going to be one of those things that will help you, not hinder you.”

Johnson also said it was “far too early” to conclude that Covid cases in the UK were on a long-term downward trend despite a week of falling infection numbers.

After warnings that confirmed Covid cases could reach 100,000 a day – not least from the health secretary, Sajid Javid – amid the end of most restrictions in England, infections appeared to plateau at 54,674 on 17 July, and have now fallen to 23,511, as recorded on Tuesday.

Asked whether the more dire modelling had been proved wrong, Johnson said: “These things are very difficult to compute. We’ve seen some encouraging recent data, there’s no question about that. But it’s far, far too early to draw any general conclusions.

“The most important thing is for people to recognise that the current situation still calls for a lot of caution.”

He was, however, adamant about the plan to end, from 16 August, the requirement for vaccinated people to self-isolate after close contact with someone who later tests positive for Covid, saying this date was “nailed on”.

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