Anti-vaxxers who threaten schools and pupils ‘will be arrested’ – Zahawi

Education secretary says protesters 'should not be going anywhere near a school'

Education secretary says protesters 'should not be going anywhere near a school'

Anti-vaccine protesters who threaten school pupils, parents or teachers “will be arrested”, Nadhim Zahawi has said.

Schools have become a focus for demonstrators who oppose Covid-19 jabs since vaccinations for 12 to 15-year-olds started in September.

Speaking on LBC this morning, the education secretary said anti-vax protesters “should not be going anywhere near a school or a pupil or a parent or a teacher, and if they do the police will and can take action against them”.

If anybody feels threatened by these anti-vax protesters they should report them and they will be arrested

Nadhim Zahawi

Zahawi revealed earlier this month that he had received a “commitment” from home secretary Priti Patel that police would have “every resource” needed to protect schools.

Pressed today by LBC presenter Nick Ferrari on a lack of arrests so far, Zahawi said: “If anybody feels threatened by these anti-vax protesters they should report them and they will be arrested.”

But Zahawi refused to commit to supporting “buffer zones” around schools to prevent anti-vax protests, saying he preferred to try to “marginalise” protesters.

“The best way to deal with the anti-vax protesters, which is the way that I’ve dealt with them since I became vaccines minister, is to effectively always make sure that we deliver the evidence and the data and be positive about vaccines.

“The moment you engage on their terms, you give them that space to operate and cut-through. I’d much rather marginalise them, these are very few incidents.”

Asked again whether we would start to see arrests, Zahawi said: “If they threaten teachers or parents or students, absolutely they should be arrested.”

It comes after a Schools Week investigation found demonstrators had live-streamed themselves outside school gates claiming the Covid jab causes cancer, infertility and death.

In October we revealed an anti-vaccine protester grabbed an autistic pupil outside his Derbyshire school gates.

In a separate incident, pupils at a school in Tyne and Wear were grabbed and shown graphic images of dead and dismembered children.

Speaking this morning, Zahawi described the protests as “awful and abhorrent”, and said they would “not be tolerated”.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said young people “should be able to go to and from school without having to worry about protesters interrupting their day”.

“Of course people have the right to protest, but we need to remember that these are children and it is not appropriate for protesters to approach them outside of school or make them feel intimidated.”

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