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Vaccine Minister Nadhim Zahawi on the Brazilian variant hitting the UK and the missing case

Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi appeared on today’s show where he answered questions about the Brazilian variant and the positive case who cannot be located.

He reassured viewers that the vaccines will be effective against the new variant, saying: “Just a couple of things on that. One, whichever variant is the  dominant variant, both vaccines work really well on and it basically spreads in the same way. It loves social interaction so please follow the rules… On this particularly variant, the P1 Brazilian variant is very similar to the South African variant which we have been dealing with for several weeks now and the way we have been dealing with it is that we have genome sequenced more than any other country pretty much in the world, we surge test as we are about to do in the South Gloucester case, and of course isolate.”

Asked how someone has managed to slip through the net, he said: “The third case, which is the person you are talking about, we think it is most likely they will have had a home test kit or a test kit given to them by the local authority, and what we are asking through your programme and others, if you have had a test on the 12th or 13th February and haven’t had a result yet because you didn’t fill in the test card details, then please come forward and call 119.”

He continued: “Our investigative team has been pretty good. Remember we have been dealing with the South African variant which is very similar to this variant in profile, for weeks now. Public Health England have been pretty good at identifying people when they don’t fill in their details. It takes two or three days using other data points to try and locate them. Because this is a variant of concern for us, we have gone further, a sort of belt and braces [approach] in coming on your programme.”

When Piers mentioned how much more efficient Australia has been at controlling its borders, Zahawi said: “You are saying Australia does it better, they have even more stringent controls, but they still have variants that spring up that are challenging them.”

On vaccine passports and whether he now withdraws his previous claim that they are ‘discriminatory’ given that the Government are moving ahead with them, he said: “No, actually quite the opposite. The reason that the Prime Minister has asked Michael Gove to look at this is because it does raise ethical sorts of issues for the UK economy to have to deal with. Internationally, I did say that we would facilitate vaccine certification if other countries are about to do that. We want to lean into that… The internal use of vaccine certification or test certification to open up the economy is now being reviewed by Michael Gove because it does raise a number of issues that we do need to look at very carefully.”

Asked if people will be required to have two vaccinations to have the passport and if we have enough supply, he said: “We absolutely have the supply to make sure people get their two vaccinations. We have been reserving vaccines for about ten days now for the second dose… by March you will see the numbers tick up even more.”

At the end of the interview, he was asked whether those who work in the NHS and care homes should be forced to have the vaccines.

Zahawi said: “I would quote Chris Whitty, the Chief Medical Officer. It is a professional duty for health care workers in protecting the most vulnerable if offered the vaccine to take the vaccine.”

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