UK considers making Covid-19 vaccine compulsory for health workers

Vaccines minister believes move could be necessary to ensure the most vulnerable are protected

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Britain could make it compulsory for medical workers to be vaccinated against Covid-19.

“It would be incumbent on any responsible government to have the debate, to do the thinking as to how we go about protecting the most vulnerable by making sure that those who look after them are vaccinated," Britain's Vaccine Minister Nadhim Zahawi told Sky News.

"There is precedent for this; obviously surgeons get vaccinated for hepatitis B. So it's something that we are absolutely thinking about."

Under the current road map, the final stage of lockdown restrictions are due to be lifted in England on June 21.

But there are fears that rising case numbers of the Indian variant of the virus could force a delay, even with evidence suggesting that vaccines were effective in preventing serious illness from the strain.

Cases of the variant doubled to almost 7,000 in Britain last week, compared to the week before.

“We will share the evidence with the country on June 14 to basically explain exactly where we are on infection rates, on hospitalisation, and of course, sadly, on deaths," Mr Zahawi said.

"We have to be cautious; we have to look at the data and share it with the country.”

Meanwhile, the Sunday Times reported that British intelligence services believe it is "feasible" that the pandemic began last year because of a lab leak in Wuhan, China.

Beijing has repeatedly rejected such claims.

Tom Tugendhat, head of the UK Parliament’s foreign affairs committee, said “the silence coming from Wuhan is troubling”.

"We need to open the crypt and see what happened to be able to protect ourselves in the future," he said.

He said that means starting an investigation "with partners around the world" and in the World Health Organisation.

Mr Zahawi said it was crucial “that the WHO is allowed to conduct its investigation unencumbered into the origins of this pandemic and we should leave no stone unturned to understand why”.

A joint report by the WHO and Chinese scientists into the origins of the pandemic released in March said the coronavirus probably came to humans from animals.

But a number of countries, including the UK and US, criticised that investigation, complaining about difficulties over access to data in China.