This week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been under fire from his own MPs after stating that ‘vaccination passports’ may be something that the government will impose as lockdown begins to ease. This comes as we draw close to a vote on the Coronavirus Act’s renewal, which was originally put in place in March 2020.
What is a vaccination passport?
In discussions about the act, and subsequently, the safety of reopening things like hospitality venues – namely pubs – the PM said that it “may be up to individual publicans” on whether they enforce rules on vaccination passports or proof of negative tests. The government is reviewing possibilities to ensure the public’s safety as lockdown eases, including looking at how people’s vaccination and test information could be stored on mobile phones, if this information was necessary to enter hospitality venues.
What has the response been?
However, in the discussion, many Tory MPs (and many members of the public) have said that this idea will not benefit the public. MP Steve Baker, for example, said that it is a “ghastly trap”. He spoke about how people advised against taking the vaccine, i.e. those with allergies or pregnant women, would suddenly be discriminated against and refused. After a year in lockdown, everybody wants to come out of these harsh and isolating rules together, but this would instead separate people. Baker mentioned that certain groups of the public are hesitant to take up the offer and would subsequently be discriminated against.
Similarly, Conservative William Wragg also asked the Prime Minister if such legislation would be “compatible with a free society such as ours”, and Kate Nicholls, the Chief Executive for UKHospitality said:
“It’s crucial that visiting the pub and other parts of hospitality should not be subject to mandatory vaccination certification. It is simply unworkable, would cause conflict between staff and customers and almost certainly result in breaches of equality rules”.
There is a mixed reception to this idea in the general public, it seems. Some people are all for it, believing it will make them safer at the pub, or shops, or wherever this certification is needed. Others are pro-vaccine but are pointing out the same things that Baker has, in that certain people cannot have the vaccine, so it is an issue of equality. Some people are anti-vaccine, and subsequently, anti passport. There has also been plenty of people pointing out that as the vaccine programme is working from the oldest to the youngest, passports would victimise young people who are likely to have to wait a long time to be fully vaccinated. Many students who are losing their ‘prime’ will continue to be turned away. It is also worth considering that many bar and pub staff are this age also and so unvaccinated (unless high risk).
Look, I get the logic behind #VaccinePassports – but the morality of it is WAY off. I will be getting my vaccine as soon as I’m eligible. But, rightly or wrongly, many people won’t get vaccinated, and we cannot just exclude these people from society.
— Podcasts on Infinite Earths (@PodcastsOIE) March 25, 2021
I’ve only one thing to say about #VaccinePassports.
If your business requires me to show one, I won’t be spending any of my hard-earned money with you.
Ball’s in your court.
— Adrian (@manorsteps) March 25, 2021
If vaccines don’t stop transmission and don’t stop infection, how can they be of any practical use for #vaccinepassports?
— ConcernedCitizen🏴☠️ (@scrahallia) March 24, 2021
So far, there has been no definite yes or no, and senior government sources have told the BBC that more reviews will be taking place. In a statement on the topic, Boris Johnson said that he finds himself thinking very deeply about it and that the public wants him to keep them as safe as possible.
PM addresses the nation in a press conference
On Monday 5th April, PM Boris Johnson, Professor Chris Witty and Sir Patrick Vallance addressed the nation to discuss the next step as we come out of the third national lockdown. To our pleasure, they announced that non-essential retail and other services would be opened from April 12th. To find out more, check out this article.
In the conference, Mr Johnson was also asked about and addressed the rumour of COVID passports. He said that he can guarantee we will not require identification for pubs or shops but that it would be an important step in coming out of lockdowns after May. He suggested that nightclubs, sports games, theatres, etc., may well be asked to use such identification. He acknowledged the opinions held against these passports but seems set on their usefulness.
The government will be trialling the passports in several events over the next few months to find the most effective and efficient way of providing this evidence to those owning venues and others attending.