Anger as Sajid Javid defends maskless Tories in Commons, saying ‘they’re not strangers’
It’s been said before by Conservatives that the coronavirus “doesn’t discriminate”. Yet comments made by Sajid Javid, the health secretary, on Wednesday have sparked controversy, after he defended Tory MPs not wearing masks in the House of Commons because “they’re not strangers”.
“There’s basically, what, 38 to 40 people in that room, poorly ventilated, not one person is wearing a mask, on the day that you advise us to wear masks in situations like that,” said presenter Niall Paterson.
On Tuesday, the government unveiled its autumn and winter plan for the UK, with a “comprehensive approach” known as ‘Plan A’ containing measures such as test, trace and isolate and the vaccination programme, and a ‘Plan B’, with mandatory mask wearing and COVID passes in certain settings.
They said Plan B would only be introduced “if the data suggests further measures are necessary to protect the NHS”.
Responding to Paterson’s question, Javid said: “That is perfectly consistent with what the prime minister said yesterday and what I said yesterday, because what we said was that people should consider wearing masks in crowded places when they are with strangers – when they are with people that they are not normally spending time with.”
“So you expect the Conservative backbenchers to be wearing masks at PMQs later today?” asked Paterson. During Wednesday’s session, the majority were not wearing masks.
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The minister replied: “They’re not strangers. Conservative backbenchers, whether they’re in Parliament, in the Chamber itself, or in the other meeting rooms…”
Paterson followed-up with an additional question: “Can you not catch Covid from your friends?”
“You have to take measures that are appropriate for the prevalence of Covid at the time,” Javid said, before adding that the messaging on masks has been “consistent throughout”.
Seemingly forgetting that even friends can pass on the virus to others, the health secretary’s comments have been met with shock and astonishment by Twitter users online:
"They're not strangers!" Important public health update: you can't catch Covid from people you know, Health Secretary says. https://t.co/R0fOAoOaS4— Robert Hutton (@RobDotHutton) September 15, 2021
Someone tell the Health Secretary it doesn’t stop being infectious if you know the person by name, it’s a virus not Rumpelfuckingstiltskin https://t.co/kbkNSdLYVC— James Felton (@JimMFelton) September 15, 2021
The actual health secretary. https://t.co/luEMzpmFBB— Ian Dunt (@IanDunt) September 15, 2021
A worrying state of affairs if the Health Secretary believes covid is only transmitted by strangers https://t.co/ZGw45eI8UE— Justin Madders MP (@justinmadders) September 15, 2021
The logic in this video is F****D!— Femi (@Femi_Sorry) September 15, 2021
Government: Wear a mask in crowded unventilated spaces.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid: But you don't need to wear a mask with friends, just with strangers.
YOU TOLD PEOLE THEY DIDN'T HAVE TO WEAR MASKS ON PUBLIC TRANSPORT! pic.twitter.com/7G4rvQVBQs
England apparently has a Health Secretary who believes a deadly virus can differentiate between friends and strangers. 😳— Child of Alba 🏴💙 (@ChildOfAlba) September 15, 2021
According to @sajidjavid on Sky New this morning, you don't need to wear masks if you are in crowded spaces with people you know. This man is the Health Secretary, for goodness sake!!! One of the most ridiculous statements of the pandemic so far.— Fr Ian Maher SCP🏴🇪🇺💙🐝#RejoinEU (@IanMaher7) September 15, 2021
One rule for them latest:— Angela Rayner (@AngelaRayner) September 15, 2021
The Health Secretary @sajidjavid tells the British people it's fine for Tory MPs not to wear face masks in the House of Commons because "they're not strangers".
Apparently you can't catch Covid off someone you know. Right then.https://t.co/1JHauHYeP7
So the virus can tell whether you know someone? Amazing. Nobel Prize worthy discovery.— Alan Rew (@alanrew) September 15, 2021
my grandson gave covid to his parents, but he knew them!— Anne (@annewitha_e) September 15, 2021
It would be nice if the H Sec had a basic understanding of infection control.— George Hotchkiss 📚🙏🐕🦺🥃🇯🇲🏴 (@GeorgeHotchki14) September 15, 2021
This is irresponsible from @sajidjavid. The Government should be setting an example to the public.— Jack Dromey MP (@JackDromeyMP) September 15, 2021
Covid doesn't discriminate between people we know and strangers, and many infected are asymptomatic.
The advice is clear - wear a mask in crowded places to avoid transmission. https://t.co/0Ps0vOLYAg
a stranger is just a friend you haven't infected yet https://t.co/mM61m2IVmc— Jim Pickard (@PickardJE) September 15, 2021
We’re gladly accepting friendship requests if it means we’re now suddenly immune from a deadly and highly contagious virus.
Spoiler alert: it doesn’t.