Everyone will be 'within 10 miles' of vaccine centre, says minister
- Credit: PA
Everybody in England should live within 10 miles of a vaccine centre once more have been opened, according to the government minister overseeing the roll-out.
Nadhim Zahawi, minister for Covid-19 vaccine deployment, said people would not have to travel more than 10 miles for a jab when the optimum number of sites have been launched.
In Norfolk and Suffolk, tens of thousands of people are currently based more than 10 miles from a vaccination hub, with some more than 20 miles away.
That includes people in the south Norfolk town of Diss, who live 22 miles from their nearest hub in Poringland - approximately a 40-minute drive away.
Surgeries in Diss, Poringland, Harleston, Long Stratton, Attleborough, Loddon and Pulham Market are part of a primary care network.
But Poringland, geographically at one end of the district, was chosen as the network's primary care hub - leaving patients at the other end with a much further distance to travel.
Mr Zahawi was speaking on Monday morning to BBC Radio 4's Today programme as seven new mass vaccination centres opened across England.
Ten new sites under the remit of Norfolk and Waveney CCG have also opened their doors today, including at Hoveton Village Hall and Rossis Leisure in North Walsham.
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The vaccines minister said the mass inoculation centres would be open from 8am to 8pm as it was "more convenient" for older people, adding that the amount of vaccine available each day was "limited".
But he said sites would operate 24 hours a day "if we need to".
Mr Zahawi also told Times Radio that he wanted to reach the point where people could simply walk into their community pharmacy or local GP to receive a vaccine.
Meanwhile, England's chief medical officer has warned the next few weeks will be the "worst of the pandemic" for the NHS.
Professor Chris Whitty told BBC Breakfast there were currently 30,000 people with coronavirus in the NHS system, compared to 18,000 during the April 2020 peak.
He said: "A week ago, all four chief medical officers for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland said: 'This is going to be a significant crisis for the NHS unless we take evasive action'.
"This new variant is really pushing things in a way that the old variant - which was already very bad - was not able to.
"So, we have a very significant problem. This is a serious problem and it is rising in every part of England."
Prof Whitty, who is also chief medical adviser to the government, also emphasised the need for people to refrain from "unnecessary contact".
He added: "What we need to do before the vaccines have had their effect - because it's going to take several weeks before that happens - is we need to really double down.
"This is everybody's problem. Any single unnecessary contact with someone is a potential link in a chain of transmission that will lead to a vulnerable person.
"We've all got to, as individuals, help the NHS, help our fellow citizens, by minimising the amount of unnecessary contacts we have."