Boris Johnson has appointed Nadhim Zahawi as a health minister responsible for the deployment of the coronavirus vaccine, Downing Street has announced.
The temporary position will last until at least next summer with Mr Zahawi temporarily relinquishing responsibility for most areas of his brief at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
The duration of Mr Zahawi’s appointment suggests it could take up to six months for the vaccine to be fully rolled out across the UK.
Mr Zahawi said he was delighted to be appointed to the role, vowing to ensure vaccines are rolled out quickly to save lives and livelihoods.
On Friday, he said that he was extremely disappointed and sad that Warwickshire, where he serves as MP for Stratford-on-Avon, will be moving into tier 3.
Mr Gove, writing in The Times, said: Covid-19 is no respecter of constituency boundaries and the hardships we are facing now are unfortunately necessary to protect every single one of us, no matter where we live.
In any analysis of this government’s, or any government’s approach, the cost of lockdown and restrictions cannot be reckoned against the status quo ante, but only against the cost of inaction, or inadequate action, and the overwhelming of the NHS.
Mr Johnson faces a Commons showdown with his own MPs when they vote on the measures next week, which could leave him dependent on Labour support to get them approved.
The news of Mr Zahawi’s appointment came as Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove warned that every hospital in England could be overwhelmed with coronavirus cases if new tier restrictions are not introduced.
He urged MPs to take responsibility for difficult decisions to curb the spread of Covid-19, amid anger from some Conservatives that much of England will face stringent restrictions.
Only the Isle of Wight, Cornwall, and the Isles of Scilly will be under the lightest Tier 1 controls, while large swathes of the Midlands, North East and North West are in the most restrictive Tier 3.
In total, 99 per cent of England will enter Tier 2 or 3, with tight restrictions on bars and restaurants and a ban on households mixing indoors when the four-week national lockdown lifts on Wednesday.