'A test at the border is near pointless' - Vaccine Minister Nadhim Zahawi explains why people flying in to the UK haven't been tested at airports
Minister for COVID vaccine deployment Nadhim Zahawi MP has told Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid why the government hasn’t tested people arriving in the UK since the coronavirus pandemic started.
Asked if he knew how many people have been tested at the border after Michael Gove said he didn't know the number, Mr Zahawi said: "The answer is that you don’t take a test on the border because it’s pointless."
Pushed on the reason why the UK isn't doing what other countries are doing by requiring people to take a test and test negative before they get on a plane to come to the country, Mr Zahawi explained that the government have been following the advice from the scientists.
"If you ask the scientists Chris Whitty and Jonathan Van-Tam, they will tell you that, that a test at the border is near pointless because that person may be showing no symptoms, may test negative, then two days later be positive," he said before stating that the Secretary of State for Transport is now looking into airport testing.
He also stated that the government reacted quickly to the South African strain.
"When the scientists discovered the South African strain, we immediately reacted and stopped travel from South Africa - that is the right thing to do, to act on the information that we receive as quickly as possible. That is what the role of government is. Of course, we can learn from other countries but if the medical, scientific evidence suggests that it’s much better for us to focus on quarantining than it is to focus on a test at the airport, then we will follow that," he said.
During his time on the show, Mr Zahawi said he is confident the government can make the target of vaccinating 14 million people in the top four categories of the most vulnerable by mid-February.
On the vaccine roll-out plan, Mr Zahawi said: "We rolled out in hospital hubs with the new vaccine. The Chief Medical Officer quite rightly advises that you begin in hospitals just to make sure that everything works properly, then into GPs, what are called primary care network, so five or six GPs covering an area of about 50,000 people come together, decide who will lead, others will support, they’re very good in vaccinating the over 80s and those in care homes - the top two categories of the nine categories that the joint committee have set us as the target. Then we roll into mass vaccination centres, with stadiums and sports halls and of course the community pharmacies and independent pharmacies where we think there are gaps.”
"There are two things about how quickly you can get jabs in arms of the most vulnerable people and one is to get to them, like in care homes, the other thing is to make sure the sites you stand up, you want that site to be optimised and do as many as possible because that’s the quickest route to get as many jabs into peoples’ arms, so we optimise those sites, as well as bringing in new sites," he added.
Asked what the projection is, Mr Zahawi responded: "I will absolutely, with the NHS plan we have in place, get to that 14 million people in the top four categories of the most vulnerable by mid-February. That is our target, I’m confident we can make that target."