Hospitals and supermarkets set to be exempt from Covid passport scheme
1st April 2021

GP surgeries, hospitals and supermarkets are set to be exempt from Covid vaccine passports as Boris Johnson prepares to announce more details of scheme on Monday

  • Ministers drawing up a list of ‘essential’ buildings to be excluded from scheme
  • It comes as Boris Johnson is set to outline more details of the system on Monday
  • Pubs, clubs and restaurants could be made to implement a jab passport scheme 
  • However Royal Society of GPs warned such a system could be ‘discriminatory’ 

Hospitals, GP surgeries and supermarkets could be excluded from any Covid vaccine passport scheme, according to reports, as Boris Johnson prepares to announce more details of on Monday.

Ministers could create a list of ‘essential’ public buildings which could be banned from excluding members of the public who have not had a jab, according to the Times.

It comes as the Government is said to be looking at the idea of Covid status certificates ‘increasingly seriously’. 

The certificates will show if a person has been vaccinated, has recently tested negative, or has shown anti-bodies.

Pubs, bars and restaurants have previously been earmarked as businesses which may have to implement a Covid passport system.

That’s despite objections from industry chiefs, as well as GP groups, who warn such a system could be ‘discriminatory’.

Previous reports have suggested NHS workers could also be forced to have Covid jabs under plans being discussed by ministers.  

Hospitals, GP surgeries and supermarkets could be excluded from any Covid vaccine passport scheme, according to reports, as Boris Johnson prepares to announce more details of on Monday

Ministers could create a list of ‘essential’ public buildings which could be banned from excluding members of the public who have not had a jab, according to the Times

UK’s Covid infection rate plunges below that of 25 EU nations as jabs success sees cases fall 28% in week to 4,052 and deaths halve

Britain’s coronavirus infection rate is now significantly lower than 25 of the EU’s 27 countries – as the UK’s daily Covid cases plunge by 28 per cent in a week, official figures revealed.

The UK’s successful vaccine rollout means it is now in the best position of all major European nations, despite being the worst hit in January.

The weekly infection rate in France – where intensive care units are overwhelmed – is around eight times higher than in the UK.

But President Emmanuel Macron blamed the so-called ‘British variant’ for the country’s surge in cases, saying it created ‘a pandemic inside a pandemic’ as France heads into its third national lockdown from Saturday.

He yesterday announced that all of mainland France will be under a 7pm curfew, working from home will be expected from those that can, gatherings will be limited, non-essential shops will be closed, and travel restrictions will be imposed.

In Germany, which recorded 23,681 cases on March 30, the infection rate is nearly three times higher.

Over the past week, the UK has recorded an average of 73 cases per one million people every day. This is a lower rate than all 27 EU nations apart from Denmark and Portugal, which have both adopted strict lockdowns.

Hungary, the worst affected EU nation, has a daily rate of 882 cases per one million.

In France it is 571, while the rate in the Netherlands is 449 and in Italy it is 334. As Europe battles a third wave, UK cases, deaths and hospitalisations have fallen to a six-month low.

On Wednesday, another 43 deaths and 4,052 cases were recorded. Deaths are now averaging 50 a day, down from a peak of 1,284 deaths on January 19. It also marked a 56 per cent week-on-week drop in deaths on last Wednesday.

The contrasting fortunes of Britain and mainland Europe are largely down to our successful vaccination programme. Nearly six in ten adults in the UK have now received at least one dose.

But across the EU, just 11 per cent of the population have been vaccinated.

NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens is urging all over-50s and younger people with health conditions yet to be vaccinated to book an appointment now.

It comes as it was revealed yesterday that Britain’s coronavirus infection rate is now significantly lower than 25 of the EU’s 27 countries – as the UK’s daily Covid cases plunge by 28 per cent in a week.

The vaccine passport system review is being led by Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove and is not expected until Mid-June.

But Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to provide a ‘high level direction of travel’ on any potential scheme as of Monday.

Ahead of the review Martin Marshall, head of the Royal College of GPs, has warned the system could ‘widen existing inequalities’ and heap extra work on GPs who are already struggling due the pandemic.

He told the Times: ‘The college is not necessarily opposed to the introduction of some sort of opt-in proof of vaccination document to allow for international travel.

‘Our concern about introducing certification for domestic use is that this risks negatively impacting on some patient groups more than others and by doing so widening existing inequalities, including health inequalities, in society.’

He also warned that any system must have an alternative to smart-phones for those who are less tech-savy.  

It comes following earlier reports that suggest ministers are mulling a ‘Covid clear’ system for people to prove they have tested negative or had a vaccine help open up pubs and sporting events.

The idea is understood to be under consideration as part of the government’s drive to get the country up and running again.

Mr Johnson previously cast doubt on the idea of ‘vaccine passports’ saying it could be ‘discriminatory’ against people who ‘genuinely’ refuse jabs or cannot have them for valid reasons.

His comments were echoed by vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi, who repeatedly denied that there were plans to introduce them, saying they were ‘discriminatory’. 

And it has previously been suggested the passports were only to be used to unlock trip abroad after lockdown had finished. 

But the PM has ordered Mr Gove to carry out a review of whether a wider system of Covid certification can be used to help reopen the UK.

One option understood to be on the table would involve businesses able to check test results on the NHS app. Individuals would be able to show that they have either had a jab or tested negative – maintaining their choice about vaccination.

Government sources stressed that no decisions have been taken and work is at an early stage.

But supporters say such a concept could help theatres, cinemas, sporting venues and workplaces get back towards normality more quickly.

On a visit to a school in South London this morning Mr Johnson said there were ‘deep and complex issues’ involved in taking the ‘novel’ step of asking people to prove things about their health to access businesses or services.

‘We can’t be discriminatory against people who for whatever reason people can’t have the vaccine, there might be medical reasons why people can’t have a vaccine,’ he said.

‘Or some people may genuinely refuse to have one. I think that’s a mistake, I think everybody should have a vaccine, but we need to thrash all this out.’

Meanwhile, Sir Jonathan Montgomery, who has led an evidence review into vaccine passports, said the idea would come too late to save summer because people would need two jabs to qualify and most young people won’t have both until the autumn.

The University College London professor of healthcare law told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme last month that there were three problems his research team had identified.

He said: ‘The first is the scientific one – does it work, and that all depends on this information about risk of transmission. The second is a timing issue.

‘We need to reopen the economy as quickly as it’s safe to do so, and vaccine passports are not going to be useful until people have had their second vaccine.

‘So it’s not something that’s going to solve the problem for summer 2021, because even on the fantastic achievements that we’ve had, the population that is going to use nightclubs is not going to have had its two vaccinations until at least the autumn, and we need everything open before then if we can.

‘And then the third question is who gets excluded by this – so if you haven’t been able to get the vaccine, you get excluded; if you for whatever reason are not appropriate to have the vaccine, or you have objections to using the vaccine, you get excluded; and those things are likely not to be evenly distributed across society.’

Sir Jonathan added that there were also ‘knock-on effects’, saying: ‘Now if this was the only way of getting the clubs open, then we might trade off the intrusions into privacy, but if there are other ways of doing it, then we probably wouldn’t want to have private information shared unnecessarily.’

In March month it was revealed that NHS workers could be forced to have Covid jabs under plans being discussed by ministers.

The review of vaccine passports will consider whether health staff who decline an injection could be legally obliged to have one.

The review is also expected to look at whether compulsion should apply to care home staff, most of whom are not employed by the state.   

It comes as it was today revealed Britain’s coronavirus infection rate is now significantly lower than 25 of the EU’s 27 countries – as the UK’s daily Covid cases plunge by 28 per cent in a week.

The UK’s successful vaccine rollout means it is now in the best position of all major European nations, despite being the worst hit in January.

The weekly infection rate in France – where intensive care units are overwhelmed – is around eight times higher than in the UK.

But President Emmanuel Macron blamed the so-called ‘British variant’ for the country’s surge in cases, saying it created ‘a pandemic inside a pandemic’ as France heads into its third national lockdown from Saturday.

He yesterday announced that all of mainland France will be under a 7pm curfew, working from home will be expected from those that can, gatherings will be limited, non-essential shops will be closed, and travel restrictions will be imposed.

In Germany, which recorded 23,681 cases on March 30, the infection rate is nearly three times higher.

Over the past week, the UK has recorded an average of 73 cases per one million people every day. This is a lower rate than all 27 EU nations apart from Denmark and Portugal, which have both adopted strict lockdowns.

Hungary, the worst affected EU nation, has a daily rate of 882 cases per one million.

In France it is 571, while the rate in the Netherlands is 449 and in Italy it is 334. As Europe battles a third wave, UK cases, deaths and hospitalisations have fallen to a six-month low.

On Wednesday, another 43 deaths and 4,052 cases were recorded. Deaths are now averaging 50 a day, down from a peak of 1,284 deaths on January 19. It also marked a 56 per cent week-on-week drop in deaths on last Wednesday.

The contrasting fortunes of Britain and mainland Europe are largely down to our successful vaccination programme. Nearly six in ten adults in the UK have now received at least one dose.

But across the EU, just 11 per cent of the population have been vaccinated.

NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens is urging all over-50s and younger people with health conditions yet to be vaccinated to book an appointment now.

Doctors reveal patients are ALREADY demanding ‘vaccine passports’ – as it emerges firm behind troubled NHS contact tracing app is behind plans 

The Government has launched a charm offensive on MPs who oppose domestic vaccine passports amid reports that patients are already asking doctors to provide them with formal proof they have had the jab. 

Michael Gove, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, reportedly held an hour-long Zoom call yesterday with Tory, Labour and Lib Dem MPs to discuss so-called ‘Covid status certification’. 

The Government is currently conducting a review into how the scheme could work with interim findings due to be published on April 5. 

It has been suggested the passports, which are likely to feature a combination of vaccine and testing data, could be used to determine whether people can visit the pub or go to sporting events. 

Ministers are facing fierce opposition from some Tory MPs who believe the documents would impinge on civil liberties and privacy. 

The Lib Dems are expected to oppose the vaccine passports and it now appears they could work with disillusioned Conservative backbenchers to try to torpedo any plans which are brought forward. 

Michael Gove, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, has launched a charm offensive on MPs who oppose domestic vaccine passports 

NHSX, the firm behind the troubled NHS contact tracing app, is reportedly involved in developing the vaccine certification. The documents are expected to use a mix of vaccine and testing data and could be used to determine whether people can go to the pub or sporting events 

The Government has stressed that no decisions have been made on whether vaccine passports will be introduced or in what circumstances they could be required. 

But the fact Mr Gove, who is leading the review, is speaking to MPs to listen to their concerns will be seen as a sign that ministers are set to proceed with the proposals.

The Tory heavyweight also revealed to MPs during the Zoom call that NHSX, the firm behind the troubled development and rollout of the NHS contact tracing app, is looking at how the certificates could work. 

One MP told The Times that when Mr Gove made the disclosure: “At that point lots of people on the call said “oh no!”.’

Another MP said: ‘They’ve got to learn from the vaccines rollout and put the business department in charge or get someone from outside. The health department will mess it up.’

The Zoom meeting included Tory lockdown sceptics Mark Harper and Steve Baker from the Covid Recovery Group as well as David Davis, the former Cabinet minister who has warned domestic vaccine passports could be illegal. 

Labour and Lib Dem MPs also reportedly took part on the call with Lib Dem chief whip Alistair Carmichael telling Mr Gove that his party will oppose any vaccine passport plans, according to The Guardian. 

The Government will face significant opposition in the House of Commons if it does push ahead with the plans. 

But the prospect of the Lib Dems and Tory rebels working together to oppose the documents could be hampered if the Government opts to include the measures in the forthcoming Queen’s Speech. 

Some Tory MPs have warned that the documents would impinge on civil liberties and privacy while the Lib Dems are also expected to oppose the plans should they be brought forward 

That would make it much more difficult for Tory MPs to oppose because voting against a Queen’s Speech – which sets out the Government’s legislative plans for the year ahead – could result in having the whip removed.

Despite the opposition of some MPs, others believe the scheme would be broadly backed by the public if it means life can return to something close to normal. 

Tory MP and former minister Andrew Murrison, a GP who has been involved in the vaccine rollout, is said to have told the Zoom meeting that patients had already asked to be provided with proof of vaccination. 

 

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