Covid: Police, teachers and other critical workers to be at top of rollout's second phase, vaccine minister says

Covid vaccine deployment minister Nadhim Zahawi has suggested jabs could be administered 24 hours a day so the government can reach its target of inoculating 15 million people by mid-February. Credit: PA

Police officers, teachers and other critical workers will be the first people to get Covid vaccines under "phase two" of the rollout, a government minister has said.

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said the programme is currently prioritising those most vulnerable of dying from coronavirus, but that police officers, teachers and other critical workers will be in the “highest category of phase two”.

He told Sky News: “Some police officers, of course, and teachers will actually get the vaccine (in phase one) because they are in those categories.

"We will very quickly move onto those other critical workers in the economy and, of course, those who are doing an incredible job, like our policemen and women in protecting us and enforcing the rules at the moment, will also be in that highest category of phase two.”

Mr Zahawi raised concerns that people are not complying with lockdown rules closely enough in supermarkets and when exercising amid suggestions the restrictions may need to be toughened.

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"I am worried about supermarkets and people actually wearing masks and following the one-way system and making sure when it’s at capacity they wait outside the supermarket.

“I’m worried about some of the pictures I’ve seen of social interactions in parks, if you have to exercise you can go out for exercise only.”

He also said 15 million people will be invited to receive the jab by mid-February and when the UK has enough vaccines, jabs could be given 24 hours a day.

He told ITV News he is confident all care home residents will have been vaccinated by mid-February.

"For every 20 care home residents we vaccinate, we save a life, so the NHS is absolutely committed to that and we're moving as fast as we can," he said.

"In terms of reducing the numbers of deaths and bringing the mortality down, none are more important than our care homes."

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “If we need to go to 24-hour work we will absolutely go 24 hours a day to make sure we vaccinate as quickly as we can.”

He added: “The top four categories, actually, for the UK is 15 million people, in England it’s about 12 million people, so we will have offered a vaccination to all of those people.”

Pressed on the difference between being offered a jab and being vaccinated, he said: “When you offer a vaccination it doesn’t mean a Royal Mail letter, it means the vaccine and the needle and the jab are ready for you.

“What you will see us publishing is the total numbers of people being vaccinated, not being offered a vaccine, and that’s the number to hold us to account to.”

Labour's Jonathan Reynolds, the shadow work and pensions secretary, told ITV News the UK is in a "race against time" vaccinate as many people as possible, while limiting the risk of the virus mutating.

Dr Nikki Kanani prepares to give a Covid-19 vaccine, at the Sunrise Care Home in south east London. Credit: PA

"That would be the worst case of all," he said.

He added: "We've got to get the vaccines rolled out and we might have to tolerate some further hardships and further restrictions in order to make sure that is successfully delivered."

His comments come after Health Secretary Matt Hancock said all adults will be offered a vaccination by the autumn.Speaking to the BBC on Sunday, Matt Hancock added the UK has 350 million doses on order.

Mr Hancock also told the Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme that at present the "rate limiting factor is supply, but that's increasing".

He added that 200,000 people are being vaccinated each day and that one-third of the over-80s have already had the coronavirus jab.