Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi announces London ‘vaccine summit’ to boost take up of the jab

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The Government has announced a London “vaccine summit” on Friday with Sadiq Khan and top health officials to combat a lower take up of the jab in the capital.

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said the summit will aim to scrutinise why the take-up of first vaccine doses in London “is slightly behind compared to others in the UK”.

Speaking at a press briefing at Downing Street he said: “In London where the percentage of first doses is slightly behind the other areas in the United Kingdom. The London team is doing an incredible job.

“I can confirm today that we are supporting them with a London summit that will take place on Friday bringing together senior officials, the NHS in London, the Mayor of London, local experts and community leaders from across the capital, so that we can see what has worked and how we can learn from it so we can scale it and of course make sure how we can really boost that crucial uptake ahead of that crucial date of July 19.”

“We know there is more, much more to do,” he added.

“As we look to tackle and take on those final steps, those hard yards on the road to recovery, we need to make sure as many people are protected as possible.

“So we are intensifying, doubling down our efforts to get more people to come forward and we are seeing real results in places like Bolton and of course in the North West and elsewhere.

“We’re honing in on areas where uptake is lower.”

The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said: “Working with Nadhim Zahawi and NHS London we’re bringing together health, community & business leaders for a London Vaccine Summit.

“It’s crucial every possible avenue is being taken to ensure all Londoners take up both vaccine doses as soon as possible.”

Mr Zahawi cited Office of National Statistic figures that indicated vaccine hesitancy among black and Asian communities had halved in recent weeks and said efforts were going into reaching groups where take-up had been lower.

He said more than 14,000 lives had been saved by the vaccination programme, while 44,500 hospital admissions had also been averted in England – 2,500 in the past two weeks.

So far 31 million Britons have been fully vaccinated while more than 43 million people in the UK have received at least one dose of a Covid jab.

The government hopes to vaccinate all over-18s with a first dose and two-thirds of adults with a second dose by July 19 - when all lockdown restrictions are expected to be lifted.

It comes as the latest changes to the traffic light travel list are expected to be announced.

Those looking for a getaway abroad were given hope on Tuesday after it was announced that a trial, looking at whether a testing regime can remove the need to quarantine, had been given the go ahead.

Apparently plans for quarantine-free travel could include unvaccinated children travelling with their parents who have had both doses of a coronavirus jab, according to The Sun.

Susan Hopkins of Public Health England has revealed that 15,000 people were already enrolled in the trial which requires them to take daily Covid tests after coming into contact with a Covid-19 patient or returning to the UK from abroad.

But Matt Hancock said the idea of daily testing “has not been clinically advised yet”.

Nicola Sturgeon (PA Wire)
Nicola Sturgeon (PA Wire)

He added: “We’re working on it. We’re working on plans to essentially allow the vaccine to bring back some of the freedoms that have had to be restricted to keep people safe.”

Travel firms, however, are not as optimistic. Andrew Flintham, managing director of Tui, claimed Whitehall “does not understand” how the travel sector works.

He told a conference organised by travel trade association Abta it is “inexplicable” that destinations such as Malta, the Greek islands and the Balearic islands remain on the amber list.

Mr Flintham warned many travel companies are “perilously close to failing”, adding that “every week that goes by just pushes those people closer to that very sad outcome”.

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