Calls for buffer zones outside schools to stop anti-vaxxers targeting children

Health / Tue 23rd Nov 2021 at 05:43pm

OPPOSITION MPs last night led a growing clamour for exclusion zones around schools to stop anti-vaxxers targeting children reports the Daily Mail.

The urgent calls came after a Daily Mail investigation revealed how a former school governor is running an anti-vax group which has picketed more than 100 schools.

The demonstrators falsely tell youngsters and their parents that the jab is ‘deadly’, could leave girls infertile and has killed many children.

Harlow’s schools have had to suffer a number of demonstrations held outside their school grounds.

Anti-vaxxers have also attended reception areas and handed in letters supposedly putting schools on notice of possible prosecution.

Downing Street branded the protesters ‘abhorrent’ and warned their school-gate lies were costing lives.

But the Government said it was up to local authorities to issue Public Spaces Protection Orders – exclusion zones against harmful protests – insisting there was no minimum time requirement to set them up.

But critics said the current legislation makes it impossible to use the orders against anti-vax demonstrations because it can take weeks to arrange the required consultation before enforcing them.

Labour wants the process streamlined so it could take under an hour.

Over the weekend, Sir Keir highlighted a Twitter post of the Mail’s front page that exposed anti-vaxxers for targeting pupils.

He told the Mail: ‘The law just isn’t working and the Tories have been asleep at the wheel instead of stopping these dangerous and contemptible anti-vax protesters outside schools.

‘It is sickening that anti-vax protesters are spreading dangerous misinformation to children.

We need the Tories to get a grip and treat this with the urgency it demands to protect our children and their parents from this inexcusable abuse.’

‘It’s high time the Government stops dragging its feet on this and steps in to introduce buffer zones around schools across the country.’

But Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said he would prefer police to deal with the protesters rather than using buffer zones.

‘The Home Secretary has reassured me that the police have all the resources they need to deal with this,’ he told LBC.

‘The anti-vax protesters should not be going anywhere near a school or a pupil or a parent or a teacher. If they do, the police will and can take action against them.’

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said in some cases it would support police to introduce a ‘buffer zone’ around the school to restore calm.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: ‘The idea of exclusion zones around schools is a good one in principle, and we would support anything which prevents protests from taking place, but we are not sure how it would actually be delivered and enforced in practice.

‘The trouble is that once protesters have turned up and conducted a protest there is little that can be done.’

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: ‘Spreading lies and disinformation and targeting them towards children, their parents and teachers is an appalling thing to do.

‘We have public spaces protection orders in place which local authorities can use if a protest is persistent, unreasonable or harming the quality of life of those in the local area.’

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