No plan for Covid vaccine passports in UK, says Michael Gove – The Guardian

Last Updated on December 1, 2020 by

The UK government is not planning to issue “vaccine passports” to people who have had a coronavirus jab, Michael Gove has said, barely 24 hours after the newly appointed vaccines minister said it was looking at the technology.

Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, said customers would not need to be vaccinated against Covid-19 to go to pubs, restaurants, theatres or sports events.

Asked on Tuesday morning whether the government was considering introducing vaccine passports, he told Sky News: “No, that’s not being planned.”

He added: “I certainly am not planning to introduce any vaccine passports and I don’t know anyone else in government [who is].”

His comments come a day after Nadhim Zahawi, who was appointed on Saturday to be responsible for overseeing the rollout of the jab, indicated that customers who had turned down the inoculation could be refused entry to pubs.

The UK government’s joint committee on vaccination and immunisation has published a list of groups of people who will be prioritised to receive a vaccine for Covid-19. The list is:

1 All those 80 years of age and over and health and social care workers.

2 All those 75 and over.

3 All those 70 and over.

4 All those 65 and over.

5 Adults under 65 at high at risk of serious disease and mortality from Covid-19.

6 Adults under 65 at moderate risk of at risk of serious disease and mortality from Covid-19.

7 All those 60 and over.

8 All those 55 and over.

9 All those 50 and over.

10 Rest of the population.

He said that while having the vaccine would not be compulsory, businesses such as pubs and restaurants might require proof that people have been vaccinated before allowing them in.

The confusion came as Boris Johnson scrambled to contain a Conservative rebellion ahead of a vote on the national tier system of Covid restrictions later on Tuesday. The vote is expected to pass despite Labour refusing to vote with the government, though ministers are expecting a sizeable number of Tory MPs to vote against the motion.

Asked by the BBC on Monday whether those who have been inoculated would get an immunity passport, Zahawi said: “We are looking at the technology. And, of course, a way of people being able to inform their GP that they have been vaccinated. But, also, I think you’ll probably find that restaurants and bars and cinemas and other venues, sports venues, will probably also use that system – as they have done with the [test and trace] app.”

Matt Hancock, the health secretary, said in a Downing Street press conference on Monday night: “For a long time now we’ve been looking at the questions that Mr Zahawi was talking about and the question of what’s the impact on the individual in terms of what they can do.”

Experts have raised concerns about such a system in relation to privacy, data protection and human rights. It has also caused disquiet among already restive Conservative MPs. Marcus Fysh, the Tory MP for Yeovil, said he was “100% against this ignorant authoritarianism”.

However, Gove appeared to rule out any plan for such passports. “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, that’s not the plan,” he also told BBC Breakfast. “What we want to do is to make sure that we can get vaccines effectively rolled out.”

He added: “Of course, individual businesses have the capacity to make decisions about who they will admit and why. But the most important thing that we should be doing at this stage is concentrating on making sure the vaccine is rolled out.”

The prime minister is to announce new one-off discretionary funding paid to councils for “wet” pubs and bars that cannot open under the strictest new tier restrictions for England, the Guardian understands.

Johnson and other cabinet ministers phoned rebellious Tory MPs on Monday, highlighting that the government had met many of the demands from the Covid Recovery Group of lockdown-sceptic MPs, including reopening retail and outdoor sports and publishing the impact assessment.

However, many remain concerned about the effect on hospitality in the run-up to Christmas, with nearly 99% of the country heading into tiers 2 or 3 with stringent curbs on venues.

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