Coronavirus pandemic updates
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Major indoor venues in England will introduce vaccines passports in the autumn, the government confirmed on Sunday as it seeks to avoid another lockdown.
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi, who in February described the idea as “discriminatory”, said the time had come to introduce the certificates given that all over-18s will have been offered the jab by the end of September.
But some leisure executives hate the plans, which the Night Time Industries Association has warned could “cripple the industry”.
Meanwhile, many Tory MPs oppose the idea on libertarian grounds and because they fear a backlash from those sceptical about the benefits of the vaccine.
The government has already rolled out an “NHS Covid pass” allowing people to demonstrate their Covid status: that could include proof of vaccination status, test results or natural immunity.
Zahawi told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that the use of passports would help to keep hospitality industries open in the coming months.
Enclosed venues with large crowds had tended to lead to surges in the spread of coronavirus during the pandemic, he said: “One thing that we have learnt is that in large gatherings of people, especially indoors, the virus tends to spike and spread.”
The minister said some Premier League football clubs had asked fans to show proof of vaccination when they reopened to capacity crowds in August.
“When the evidence that you are presented is so clear-cut and that we want to make sure the industry doesn’t have to go through [an] open-shut, open-shut sort of strategy, then the right thing to do is to introduce that by the end of September when all over-18-year-olds have had their two jabs.”
The news comes just days after Scotland confirmed that it would require vaccine passports for entry to many large indoor and outdoor venues from later in September. Wales is not expected to follow suit.
Zahawi also said it was “very likely” that the government’s plans to offer a Covid booster jab to the most vulnerable people, including all over-50s, could be given the green light this month.
Last week the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation refused to recommend the extension of the rollout to 12-15-year-olds, given the benefits to younger children were “marginal” on health grounds.
However the chief medical officers are now considering the wider implications of extending the vaccine to that younger cohort.
Zahawi said stretching the vaccine rollout to all 12-15-year-olds would “absolutely” be the right thing to do if the UK’s chief medical officers recommended it.
The minister also confirmed that compulsory Covid vaccinations will be brought in for all NHS staff, on top of existing plans to require all care home workers to get jabbed.