Brown's aide deemed health risk to the G8
Monday 13 July 2009
Gordon Brown banned one of his senior aides from attending the G8 summit of world leaders because he had contracted swine flu, it has emerged.
Michael Jacobs, senior policy adviser on climate change and the environment, appealed to Mr Brown to let him go to the summit in L'Aquila, Italy, but the Prime Minister was worried he may risk the health of the 27 world leaders.
The details of the exchange came to light as it emerged that UK health chiefs are preparing to vaccinate the entire British population against swine flu, in what would be the biggest vaccination programme for half a century. Experts are drawing up a priority list of patients to be given immunity before the bug becomes more virulent.
Peter Holden, the British Medical Association's lead negotiator on swine flu, said, "The high risk groups will be done at GPs' surgeries. People are still making decisions over this, but we want to get cracking before we get a second wave, which is traditionally far more virulent."
The move comes after the first British patient without underlying health problems died after contracting swine flu, taking the number of swine flu-linked deaths in the UK to 15.
Mr Jacobs, who is believed to have caught swine flu last month on a visit to Mexico, argued that he was no danger because he had passed the infectious stage of the disease. Mr Brown asked his aide for a 100 per cent guarantee from his GP that he was no longer contagious, but the doctor was unwilling to give one.
The Prime Minister ruled that Mr Jacobs should stay away from the summit, even though he had played a key role in negotiations in the run-up and would have taken part in talks in L'Aquila between rich and developing nations on climate change. However Mr Jacobs was allowed to travel to Italy and operated from Rome 125 miles away, communicating with his colleagues by email and telephone.
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