‘Taking people for fools’ Zahawi squirms as he’s grilled over Boris’ isolation U-turn

Boris Johnson 'considered' pilot scheme says Nadhim Zahawi

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Nadhim Zahawi faced an embarrassing grilling from BBC Radio 4’s Justin Webb after the minister suggested Boris Johnson only ever “considered” skipping isolation despite a government press release stating it would be officially carried out. The statement was subsequently withdrawn with Boris Johnson and Health Secretary Sajid Javid now isolating after Mr Javid contracted the illness but Nadhim Zahawi desperately tried to play down the story by suggesting skipping isolation was never set in stone. Mr Webb quickly pointed out the decision to skip isolation was officially published by the Government as the minister awkwardly tried to backtrack and suggest he was not taking anyone for a “fool”.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, Mr Zahawi was asked where was the Prime Minister when he received the alert to self-isolate. 

Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak attempted to circumnavigate self-isolation by suggesting they were part of a pilot scheme that replaced isolation with daily testing. 

Mr Javid contracted COVID-19 and came into close contact with both politicians. 

Both Mr Johnson and Mr Sunak U-turned on the decision following public outcry with the Prime Minister releasing a video telling the country to “stick to the rules” before announcing he will isolate. 

Mr Zahawi answered: “I don’t know where the Prime Minister was when he was contacted by Track and Trace all I would say to your listeners and viewers is that this pilot scheme of both the Cabinet Office and No10 has been running since December.

“And it’s not just the Cabinet Office, but Network Rail, Transport for London, Heathrow and others as well but I think the Prime Minister considered whether they would subscribe to the pilot scheme but actually rightly opted for self-isolation.”

Mr Zahawi was then interrupted as it was pointed out to him a No10 statement at 8:01am on Sunday saying Mr Johnson would participate in the daily testing pilot scheme.

The Vaccine Minister began to stumble as the statement contradicted his claim it was only considered and suggested the PM wanted to send a “clear message” to the nation about isolation. 

Nadhim Zahawi issues a warning over flu during the winter

Mr Webb said the statement did send a clear message which was that Mr Johnson and Mr Sunak would be part of the pilot scheme.

He added: “I mean, that there is a problem here isn’t there in taking people for fools.

“Why not simply say look we thought we could be in the pilot scheme and actually we realise now that a lot of people would be very angry about it so we’re not going to do it?”

Mr Zahawi answered: “Well, first of all, just nobody’s taking anyone for a fool, every decision that the Prime Minister had to make throughout this pandemic has been a tough decision.

“There have been no easy options, I’ve been very closely involved since November when I took on this job of Vaccines Minister.

“And I think the mobilisation, the largest in peacetime history of the NHS, armed forces and the volunteers has demonstrated how we can come together.”


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Mr Webb again interrupted to steer the conversation back to the original point and said many were angry that people at the top were clearly flouting the rules when many had followed them and paid the price for doing so.

The legal UK lockdown restrictions were lifted on July 19 with things like mask-wearing, social distancing and groups no longer being enforced by law. 

However, many businesses have taken it upon themselves to keep these measures in place for the protection and comfort of their customers. 

Places like Tesco and Waterstones have urged their customers to keep wearing masks and to maintain distance when in their stores.

It comes as scientists warn daily cases could top 100,000 but add that deaths and hospitalisations will still be extremely low thanks to the vaccine programme. 

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