A government minister has become the first to back the reduction of the Covid self-isolation period from seven to five days.

Education secretary Nadhim Zahawi said bringing down the number of days needed to isolate after testing positive would be "more helpful".

Speaking to The Sunday Times, Mr Zahawi said: "The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) have said they want to review it, so we will stick to seven days but if they review it and say they will bring it down to five days that is even better for me, it's even more helpful."

Mr Zahawi added that he believed the UK is "witnessing the transition of the virus from pandemic to endemic".

His comments came after parents were urged to book jabs for their children as the number of official Covid deaths passed 150,000 in the UK.

Around half a million vaccination appointments are being made available online in England for the 12 to 15-year-olds during January, a senior doctor has said - with slots available at around 500 walk-in sites and 300 centres.

With the official Covid death total reached 150,057, the UK is the seventh country to pass the milestone - following the US, Brazil, India, Russia, Mexico and Peru.

The news follows reports that universal free lateral flow tests could be scaled back.

However, Mr Zahawi insisted he was "puzzled" by a report suggesting that their universal availability could be axed as they are limited to high-risk settings and for people with symptoms.

Mr Zahawi told Sky's Trevor Phillips on Sunday: "I saw that story this morning, which I was slightly puzzled by because I don't recognise it at all. This is absolutely not where we are at.

"For January alone 425 million lateral flow tests are coming in and they will continue to be available for free.

"I don't really recognise where that story is coming from."