His comments come ahead of the relaxation of lockdown rules on Monday, which will allow people to meet outside in groups of up to six or two households.
Concern about the spread of Covid in Europe continues, with France recording almost 42,000 new cases and Germany around 21,500 on Friday, compared to the UK’s 6,000.
Escalating the row over vaccine supply, the French foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, warned Britain against trying to “blackmail” the EU over jabs – but Mr Zahawi moved to calm concerns by insisting the Government was pushing ahead with its rollout and stressing that the manufacture of some new vaccines would happen in the UK.
“However the virus behaves, we’re going to be ready,” he said, stressing that working with so many different producers would help “future-proof” against any unforeseen variants emerging.
Drive-through vaccine centres will soon be opening to help counter vaccine hesitancy among people in their 30s, 40s and 50s, Mr Zahawi said. He added that children aged 12 to 17 could be first to get a jab if safe, after The Telegraph reported that under-18s could start getting vaccines from August.
The minister also opened the door to churches being allowed to check people’s Covid status, saying: “If we want our lives back, I think we’ve got to at least – if nothing else – look at all this stuff.”
The Covid vaccine rollout has been a standout government success, with 29 million people having been given a first dose – more than half the adult population. The Government has said all adults will be offered a first jab by the end of July, but has confirmed little about what will follow.