‘If we do that well’ Nadhim Zahawi says booster jabs could help avoid Autumn restrictions

Nadhim Zahawi on reports of possible October lockdown

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Nadhim Zahawi has not denied the United Kingdom could face yet another lockdown in October, but has claimed it will depend on how “well” the UK rolls out booster jabs. The Vaccine Minister, 54, was unable to categorically deny reports Britain could experience so-called “firebreak” restrictions in the Autumn if Covid-19 cases spiral out of control.

Instead, the Conservative MP for Stratford-upon-Avon suggested the Government’s booster jab programme could prove vital in avoiding future restrictions.

“The vaccines have actually allowed us to reach an equilibrium with the virus in the sense that they have prevented over 100,000 deaths, many many millions of infections and of course hospitalisations as well,” Mr Zahawi said in his interview with Sky News’ Kay Burley.

“The upward pressure on infections is as, obviously, we have reopened the economy to pretty much as close to normal as you can get.”

He added: “The booster programme that we’ve had interim advice from the JCVI on is my absolute priority.

“That will protect the most vulnerable to serious infection.

“That will absolutely help us transition this virus from pandemic to endemic status.

“The important thing is that we get that right, because I think if we do that well, we can continue on this sort of one-way road towards sustaining the opening of the economy and, by next year hopefully, transitioning the virus from pandemic to endemic and dealing with it on an annual basis.”

The Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, has previously said booster jabs will be rolled out later this month.

In his Tuesday morning media appearances, the Vaccine Minister claimed he had not seen any plans to introduce a “firebreak” lockdown.

“I don’t want to adjust the half-term or go back to any form of lockdowns, because that’s the worst thing we can do to the economy,” he said.

“I am absolutely focused on making sure we don’t have to reverse all the great gains we’ve made on reopening the economy.”

But the Brexit-backing MP’s comments come after inews.co.uk reported Boris Johnson’s Government has been planning to introduce “firebreak” restrictions if pandemic-related hospitalisations remain high.

A senior scientist in Whitehall and SAGE member reportedly told the newspaper that the UK could reintroduce restrictions during the October half-term to stave off an “extended peak” of infections and hospitalisations.

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The “firebreak” could see schools close for an extra week and a return to mask-wearing and social distancing in public places.

Travel restrictions are also thought to be reimposed.

Number 10 has denied the claim Britain is preparing to impose restrictions next month.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesperson said: “No, it is not true that the government is planning a lockdown or firebreak around the October half-term.”

The Department for Education also rejected the “firebreak” reports.

The department’s Twitter account claimed: “It is not true that the Government is planning lockdown or firebreak around the October half term.”

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