News

Covid passport trials to begin: Boris Johnson is set to unveil a test scheme for venues on Monday

Trials of vaccine passports could begin as soon as next month, the Mail can reveal.

Theatres and stadiums are being lined up to pilot the controversial scheme under plans discussed by ministers.

The passports could also be used eventually in pubs, restaurants, nightclubs and cinemas.

Pilot schemes will begin after work is completed on an updated version of the NHS Covid app which will let users prove they have been vaccinated.

The plan is a sign Boris Johnson will give vaccine passports the go-ahead on Monday, when he is due to report the interim results of a study led by Michael Gove.

But their introduction is certain to trigger a huge political row. Last night 72 MPs – including libertarian Tories and senior Labour figures – issued a joint statement branding vaccine passports ‘divisive and discriminatory’ and vowing to oppose them.

This threatens a major headache for the Prime Minister if he needs legislation to bring the scheme in.

The Mail can also reveal that Mr Johnson’s ‘roadmap’ for lifting almost all restrictions by June 21 could now be dependent on a functioning vaccine passport programme.

One Whitehall source last night admitted it is vital if the Government is to hit its target of ending all social distancing this summer.

Yesterday, the Prime Minister dropped a further hint he has come round to the idea, saying vaccine passports could help to provide ‘maximum confidence to businesses and customers’. He stressed any scheme would also allow people to show a negative test result or proof they already have Covid antibodies.

Speaking on a visit to Middlesbrough, the PM said vaccine passports now looked inevitable for foreign travel. But he suggested they would also have a ‘useful’ role to play domestically. It came as:

  • Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said Covid would eventually have to be managed in a similar way to serious seasonal viruses such as flu;
  • Cases continued to fall after pupils returned to school, in a boost for plans to press ahead with easing lockdown;
  • Another 51 deaths and 4,479 cases were reported;
  • An incredible 93 per cent of over-50s have now been vaccinated;
  • Ministers appeared set to introduce a ‘traffic light’ system to open up flights to countries with low Covid rates;
  • Police chiefs warned the public not to bend the rules this Easter weekend;
  • Emmanuel Macron was accused of acting like an arrogant king over France’s new national lockdown.

Trials of vaccine passports could begin as soon as next month, the Mail can reveal. Pictured: A covid-safe pub lunch

Trials of vaccine passports could begin as soon as next month, the Mail can reveal. Pictured: A covid-safe pub lunch

The plan to test vaccination passports, revealed by the Mail, is a sign that Prime Minister Boris Johnson (pictured on April 1 in Middlesborough) will give vaccine passports the green light Easter Monday when he reports the findings of a study led by Michael Gov

The plan to test vaccination passports, revealed by the Mail, is a sign that Prime Minister Boris Johnson (pictured on April 1 in Middlesborough) will give vaccine passports the green light Easter Monday when he reports the findings of a study led by Michael Gov

The plan to test vaccination passports, revealed by the Mail, is a sign that Prime Minister Boris Johnson (pictured on April 1 in Middlesborough) will give vaccine passports the green light Easter Monday when he reports the findings of a study led by Michael Gove

How they could work

 What would I get?

Officials are working on an update of the NHS app which would allow people to scan their vaccine status at the door of a venue. A paper version is being developed for those who do not use a smartphone.

Is it popular?

One poll found 68 per cent would support the idea for theatres or indoor concerts, with just 18 per cent opposed. But businesses have raised concerns, with the trade body UK Hospitality branding it ‘unworkable’.

Do MPs back it?

Opposition is building, with a cross-party alliance of 72 MPs last night pledging to oppose the ‘divisive and discriminatory’ plan. Rebels include 40 Tories – enough to wipe out the Government’s majority. Labour has yet to say how it will vote and ministers believe they could force it through without primary legislation.

What about pubs?

Boris Johnson suggested last week that it could be left to individual landlords to decide whether to require vaccine certificates.

Anywhere else?

Possibly in the workplace. But the CBI warns it could prove a ‘legal minefield’ and damage relations.

When will it happen?

Possibly as soon as next month in theatres and stadiums. However a full rollout will not take place until all adults have been jabbed. 

The vaccine passports row exploded last month when ministers confirmed they were considering the idea – after a string of denials.

Mr Johnson then suggested to MPs that they could eventually be needed to visit the pub. 

A working group led by Mr Gove has been leading a review, with the PM due to give an update on Monday.

The roadmap out of lockdown paves the way for pilot schemes on allowing crowds to attend ‘large events’ from April 12. 

But Whitehall sources say these schemes will also now be used to test the emerging technology needed for vaccine passports. 

Ministers hope an updated version of the NHS app will allow users to display their vaccine status on their phones. 

They have already decided people should be able to demonstrate their risk status in other ways, such as providing a negative test result.

This is deigned to get around concerns the scheme could ‘discriminate’ against those not able or willing to have a jab.

A Whitehall source said of the vaccine passports idea: ‘It is part of the trade-off for getting rid of social distancing.

The hope is that people will be willing to tolerate it in order to get back to doing the things they love.’

Mr Johnson said: ‘There’s definitely going to be a world in which international travel will use vaccine passports. I think when it comes to trying to make sure that we give maximum confidence to businesses and customers in the UK, there are three things – there’s immunity, whether you have had it before so you have natural antibodies, whether you have been vaccinated, and of course whether you have had a test.

‘Those three things working together will be useful for us as we go forward.’

But there is growing cross-party concern about the idea of requiring people to produce evidence of their health status to carry out everyday activities such as going to the pub or even the office.

Former minister Steve Baker, deputy chairman of the 70-strong Covid Recovery Group, said this would be ‘unthinkable’. Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey described the scheme this week as ‘unworkable and illiberal’.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said he would study any Government proposals but warned his party could oppose the ‘un-British’ plan. 

The Covid-19 vaccination pilot scheme will begin after work on an updated NHS Covid app is completed, that will show a person's coronavirus vaccination status. Pictured: A person holds up a smart phone with a mock-up of a vaccine passport

The Covid-19 vaccination pilot scheme will begin after work on an updated NHS Covid app is completed, that will show a person's coronavirus vaccination status. Pictured: A person holds up a smart phone with a mock-up of a vaccine passport

The Covid-19 vaccination pilot scheme will begin after work on an updated NHS Covid app is completed, that will show a person’s coronavirus vaccination status. Pictured: A person holds up a smart phone with a mock-up of a vaccine passport

The introduction of vaccine passports is certain to trigger a political row, with MPs issuing a joint statement against the passports. Pictured: Former RAF Flight Sergeant Louis Godwin receives his second injection of the coronavirus vaccine at Salisbury Cathedral, Wiltshire, March 27

The introduction of vaccine passports is certain to trigger a political row, with MPs issuing a joint statement against the passports. Pictured: Former RAF Flight Sergeant Louis Godwin receives his second injection of the coronavirus vaccine at Salisbury Cathedral, Wiltshire, March 27

The introduction of vaccine passports is certain to trigger a political row, with MPs issuing a joint statement against the passports. Pictured: Former RAF Flight Sergeant Louis Godwin receives his second injection of the coronavirus vaccine at Salisbury Cathedral, Wiltshire, March 27

Wetherspoon boss says vaccine passports would be ‘the last straw’ for pubs

Wetherspoon boss Tim Martin has said vaccine passports would be ‘the last straw’ for struggling pubs and force bar staff into a ‘bitter civil liberties war’ with customers.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Mr Martin said ‘there is no justification for a passport system’.

The chairman of the pub chain said: ‘For many pubs, hanging on for dear life and devastated by G-force changes of direction, a complex and controversial passport scheme would be the last straw.

‘It would inevitably put pub staff in the frontline of a bitter civil liberties war, with some customers unwilling to be vaccinated or unable to have a jab for medical reasons.’

Meanwhile, Britain’s daily coronavirus cases have dropped by a third in a week and deaths are continuing to fall, official data revealed today as a catalogue of statistics showed England’s outbreak is still shrinking.

Department of Health bosses posted 4,479 lab-confirmed cases today and 51 deaths — down 20 per cent on the same time last week.

Figures also showed more second vaccine doses (404,922) than first shots (241,906) were dished out for the second day in a row.

Data across the board revealed the virus remains in retreat, prompting experts to claim reopening schools had a ‘very small’ impact on cases and England was in a ‘good position’ for the next bout of lockdown-easing on April 12.

The Office for National Statistics estimated 148,100 Britons were infected on any given day last week — the lowest figure since before the second wave spiralled out of control and down almost 10 per cent on the previous seven-day spell.

Figures from a symptom-tracking app monitoring the size of the country’s outbreak also claimed the number of people falling ill with tell-tale signs of the disease every day has dropped by a similar amount to 2,800. 

And Public Health England data revealed cases have fallen in every age group except secondary school children, offering more proof that reopening classrooms on March 8 has not triggered any resurgence.

Separate Test and Trace figures today also added to the heartening estimates, showing the number of people diagnosed with Covid in England fell by two per cent last week with 36,606 cases – the fewest since September.

PHE statistics revealed infection rates were rising in a quarter of councils across the country – but that the rise was entirely down to a spike in 10 to 19 year olds.

It comes as police issued stern warnings officers will be enforcing lockdown this weekend, with millions expected to use the four-day Easter break to enjoy the first weekend of eased restrictions to meet with family and friends.

Experts also warned coronavirus cases will spike next week and the country could be plunged into a fourth lockdown if people fail go wild over the bank holiday.

Pressure is mounting on Boris Johnson to speed up the lifting of lockdown restrictions, in the face of the shrinking outbreak and successful vaccination drive.

But the Prime Minister has so far defied calls from anti-lockdown Tory MPs, sticking to his ultra-cautious roadmap back to normality.   

PHE data showed that a quarter of council authorities in England - or 41 out of 149 - saw a rise in Covid cases last week, with the upticks likely being driven by school children

PHE data showed that a quarter of council authorities in England - or 41 out of 149 - saw a rise in Covid cases last week, with the upticks likely being driven by school children

PHE data showed that a quarter of council authorities in England – or 41 out of 149 – saw a rise in Covid cases last week, with the upticks likely being driven by school children

The Covid Symptom Study shows that infection rates are still coming down in all adult age groups, although they appear relatively flat in school-age children (blue line)

The Covid Symptom Study shows that infection rates are still coming down in all adult age groups, although they appear relatively flat in school-age children (blue line)

The Covid Symptom Study shows that infection rates are still coming down in all adult age groups, although they appear relatively flat in school-age children (blue line)

Test and Trace data today showed a total of 36,606 people tested positive for Covid in England at least once in the week to March 24. For comparison, the figure for the previous seven-day spell was 37,289

Test and Trace data today showed a total of 36,606 people tested positive for Covid in England at least once in the week to March 24. For comparison, the figure for the previous seven-day spell was 37,289

Test and Trace data today showed a total of 36,606 people tested positive for Covid in England at least once in the week to March 24. For comparison, the figure for the previous seven-day spell was 37,289

A group are pictured having a game of beach volleyball enjoy the last day of warm temperatures before the weather turns colder at Bournemouth in Dorset today

A group are pictured having a game of beach volleyball enjoy the last day of warm temperatures before the weather turns colder at Bournemouth in Dorset today

A group are pictured having a game of beach volleyball enjoy the last day of warm temperatures before the weather turns colder at Bournemouth in Dorset today

Two women leap in the air as they pose for a photograph from a friend as they enjoy the last day of warm temperatures today in Bournemouth

Two women leap in the air as they pose for a photograph from a friend as they enjoy the last day of warm temperatures today in Bournemouth

Two women leap in the air as they pose for a photograph from a friend as they enjoy the last day of warm temperatures today in Bournemouth

EVEN THE GLOOMIEST EXPERTS SAY DAILY COVID DEATHS SHOULD CONTINUE TO DROP 

Cambridge University academics whose gloomy warnings of 4,000 deaths a day spooked ministers into imposing England’s second lockdown say daily fatalities will continue to drop when more restrictions are eased.

The ‘Nowcast’ team, which feeds into No10’s advisory panel SAGE, estimates Covid deaths could fall as low as 35 a day by April 16, based on current trends.

England is set to hit the second stage of Boris Johnson’s ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown on April 12, with hairdressers and gyms set to reopen and bars, pubs, and cafes allowed to serve customers outdoors.

The Prime Minister has warned the plan could be derailed by a spike in Covid cases or the emergence of a new variant that may dodge vaccine-sparked immunity.

But the latest catalogue of data is promising, and shows cases are still falling in England and three quarters of all age groups despite schools reopening. 

Experts said the numbers suggested England was in a ‘good position’ as it prepared to ease more measures.

Writing in their latest report, the Cambridge scientists said: ‘We predict that the number of deaths occurring daily is likely to remain low with a forecast for the period around April 16 suggesting that there will be fewer than 175 deaths per day and potentially as few as 35 deaths per day.’

They also suggested there were around 12,900 new infections occurring daily across England, with rates being highest in the East Midlands, North West and West Midlands. 

In an upbeat tone head modeller Professor Daniela De Angelis said: ‘The pandemic has been shrinking in England as a consequence of the January lockdown and signs of the impact of immunisation on the risk of mortality are becoming apparent.’

But she added there are also signs that cases are now ticking up in some regions which will need to be carefully monitored.

The ONS report is based on test results from 144,000 random members of the population which are then scaled up to the whole country.

It found infection rates were highest in Yorkshire, the North East and the North West, at 0.4 per cent, and lowest in the South East and South West, at 0.1 per cent.

The rate was 0.3 per cent – three in a thousand – in the East and West Midlands and in London, and 0.2 per cent in the East of England.

Of the devolved nations, Wales has the lowest infection rate (0.18 per cent) and Northern Ireland the highest (0.45 per cent), while it was 0.32 per cent in Scotland.

When the figures were broken down by age group they showed cases had only risen among 16 to 24-year-olds, to 0.31 per cent, but had remained stable in 11 to 15-year-olds at 0.42 per cent.

Case rates were lowest among 50 to 69-year-olds (0.14 per cent), who are being offered at least one dose of the Covid vaccine.

And over-70s (0.18 per cent), where everyone in this age groups has been offered at least one dose of the jab.

Public Health England’s data, taken from the official swab testing system, backed this up and showed that infection rates also fell in all age groups except 10 to 19-year-olds where they rose by seven per cent to 109.8 cases per 100,000 people.

Over-70s – who are most at risk of becoming ill if they catch the virus – still had the lowest infection rate (10.7 per 100,000).

PHE data showed that a quarter of local authorities in England – or 41 out of 149 – saw a rise in Covid cases last week, Public Health England’s weekly surveillance report revealed today, with the upticks being driven by school children.

Figures showed infection rates fell in all age groups except 10 to 19-year-olds where they rose by seven per cent to 109.8 cases per 100,000 people. Over-70s – who are most at risk of becoming ill if they catch the virus – still had the lowest infection rate (10.7 per 100,000). Everyone in this group has been offered a Covid vaccine.

The council areas recording rising infection rates were mostly based in London, where nine boroughs saw an increase including Bexley where they doubled, and the South East with eight councils recording more cases than previously including the Isle of Wight, Oxfordshire and Windsor and Maidenhead.

But pockets of growing infections were scattered across England including five areas in the South West – Devon, Cornwall, and Plymouth among others – and four in the North West – Trafford, Oldham and Central Manchester.

The Covid Symptom Study app had suggested cases were already increasing in London and the South East last week. But PHE data disputed this, saying cases in all regions were still falling.

The app, published early ahead of Good Friday, bases its estimates on reports from more than a million Britons on whether they are feeling unwell, what symptoms they are suffering, and if they have tested positive for the virus.

But it can only detect symptomatic infections – which trigger warning signs of the virus – and not asymptomatic cases thought to make up about a third of the total infections across the country.

Covid cases fell in all age groups last week except schoolchildren aged up to 19 years old, according to the app, where they remained steady.

WHAT DID THE DATA REVEAL TODAY? 

There are several data reports tracking the spread of Covid in the UK published every week.

Office for National Statistics

The ONS report, based on random swab testing of around 144,000 people, showed the total number of people with coronavirus fell last week.

The report suggested 0.27 per cent of people in England had the virus at a time in the week ending March 27 – around 148,100 people, or one in every 370.

This was down nine per cent from 162,500 a week earlier, which had been a slight rise from the week before that.

Public Health England

Public Health England’s weekly surveillance report showed that positive tests were down in all regions and all adult age groups.

They rose in 10 to 19-year-olds, believed to be driven by schools reopening, and in 41 out of 149 council authorities across the country, many in London and the South East.

 Covid Symptom Study

This app estimated Covid cases fell by 13 per cent last week, to 2,839 daily symptomatic infections.

Its figures are based on reports from more than a million Britons who tell the app whether they are feeling unwell, what symptoms they are suffering and if they have tested positive for the virus.

Test and Trace

Covid cases fell by two per cent last week, according to its weekly official report.

Test and Trace said there were 3,606 cases in the week to March 24, down from 37,289 the week before. 

The highest number of daily symptomatic cases, the Symptom Study found, were in London and the West Midlands (510 each), estimates suggest, followed by the East Midlands (369), Yorkshire and the Humber (346) and the South East (303). 

Professor Spector added: ‘As cases decline again, we’re seeing regional divides widen to a three-fold difference, a familiar trend we saw last summer when cases were similarly low.’   

Separate data from Test and Trace today showed England’s outbreak shrunk by two per cent in the week to March 24 after 36,606 people tested positive for Covid. For comparison, the figure for the previous seven-day spell was 37,289.

Some 7.1million lateral flow tests for Covid were also done last week, down from 7.7million in the previous week, as schools were asked to test pupils twice a week to root out any cases of the virus.

PHE’s data showed 10 to 19-year-olds had the highest Covid infection rate in England last week at 109.8 cases per 100,000. This was up from the 102.3 recorded the week before.

All pupils were invited back to schools on March 8 with twice weekly testing in place to ensure any outbreaks were snuffed out quickly.

Experts say the escalated testing regime could have led to more asymptomatic infections – which cause no symptoms – being picked up that would previously have gone unreported.

Over-30s had the second-highest infection rate (71.6), but this was down 12 per cent on the previous week (81.2), and over-40s had the third highest (61.2), also down 15 per cent on the week before (15 per cent).

The lowest infection rate was among the over-70s, who have all been offered at least one dose of the vaccine, followed by the over-60s (20.1), who have also all been offered a first dose.    

Test and Trace figures also showed there were 30,779 people transferred to the contact tracing system, of whom 91.4 per cent were reached and asked to provide details of close contacts – people they had been near for more than 15 minutes.  

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.

President Emmanuel Macron last night 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. 

Meanwhile experts warn coronavirus cases will spike next week and the country could be plunged into a fourth lockdown if people fail to heed advice over the Easter bank holiday weekend.

Police have stepped up patrols and are begging parents to control their children over the four-day break, in the wake of carnage seen across the country this week.

Lockdown restrictions eased for the first time in months on Monday, allowing groups to meet outdoors – but experts fear the loosening of rules may lead to a dangerous spike in Covid cases, with millions expected to use the four-day Easter break to enjoy the first weekend of eased restrictions to meet with family and friends.

Professor Adam Finn tweeted: ‘Throngs of young people crowded together in their hundreds enjoying the beautiful warm evening together by the water.

‘A complete change. If this is happening everywhere then we can confidently expect case numbers to rise next week.’ And Professor Lawrence Young warned the virus was ‘still out there and very infectious.’

He told the Sun Online: ‘While the risk of transmission is low in outdoor spaces, crowding together could result in some spread of the virus and it’s too easy to take liberties which we consider to be low risk but aren’t e.g. close contact by hugging or popping inside to go to somebody else’s toilet.

‘We need to hang on in there with the current restrictions for a bit longer – none of us want another lockdown.’

This comes as police forces across the country including Merseyside, Humberside, Dorset, Sussex and Cheshire today issued stern warnings that officers will be out enforcing lockdown measures, such as the rule of six.

An RAC survey projects 5.6million cars will hit the road this weekend to visit loved ones, taking advantage of the four-day holiday and end of three-month ‘stay at home’ orders, which were replaced with ‘stay local’ on Monday.  

Pressure is mounting on Boris Johnson to speed up the lifting of lockdown restrictions, in the face of the shrinking outbreak and successful vaccination drive.

But the Prime Minister has so far defied calls from anti-lockdown Tory MPs, sticking to his ultra-cautious roadmap back to normality.

Other police chiefs warned ministers that the ‘rule of six’ is virtually unenforceable because of the two household concession, which puts no limit on numbers. Across the country yesterday:

  • MANCHESTER: Police cleared drinkers from Castlefield Bowl after revellers gathered for a live DJ set;
  • NOTTINGHAM: Officers seized bottles of alcohol from sunseekers and poured it onto the grass;
  • LEICESTER: Police begged parents to control their children, admitting they ‘could not sort this alone’;
  • HARBOROUGH: Councillor accused revellers they risk exploding ‘deadly Covid-19 timebomb’ after parties;
  • LEEDS: Police threatened to disperse further big crowds after fights broke out at Hyde Park in Leeds. 

New Test and Trace rules will force EVERY pub-goer to sign in when venues reopen – but are blasted by trade bodies

  • New Test and Trace rules force all over-16s to check in to NHS test and trace app
  • Must give details before going into pubs, cafés or restaurants when they reopen
  • Marks change from last year which saw pubs demand details of 1 group member
  • Comes as Boris Johnson hinted Britons will need vaccine passport to go abroad  

New Test and Trace rules forcing every pub-goer in a group to sign in when entering have been blasted by trade bodies.

The rules force all over-16s to check in to the NHS Test and Trace app or give their details to staff before going into pubs, cafés or restaurants when they reopen on April 12. 

‘Reasonable steps’ must also be taken by pubs to make sure that people who refuse to hand their details cannot come in, the Government said.

It marks a change from last year’s rules, which saw only one group member forced to share their details.

Trade body UKHospitality, the British Beer & Pub Association and the British Institute of Innkeeping wrote a joint letter to the Prime Minister saying the rule ‘threatens the very survival of thousands of businesses’.

It comes as Boris Johnson said proof of vaccination and having had a test could help provide ‘maximum confidence to businesses and customers in the UK’.

The statement is likely to be viewed as a sign that the Government does intend to proceed with some sort of domestic ‘Covid status certification’. 

New Test and Trace rules forcing every pub-goer in a group to sign in when entering have been blasted by trade bodies. The rules force all over-16s to check in to the NHS Test and Trace app (pictured) or give their details to staff before going into pubs, cafés or restaurants when they reopen on April 12

New Test and Trace rules forcing every pub-goer in a group to sign in when entering have been blasted by trade bodies. The rules force all over-16s to check in to the NHS Test and Trace app (pictured) or give their details to staff before going into pubs, cafés or restaurants when they reopen on April 12

New Test and Trace rules forcing every pub-goer in a group to sign in when entering have been blasted by trade bodies. The rules force all over-16s to check in to the NHS Test and Trace app (pictured) or give their details to staff before going into pubs, cafés or restaurants when they reopen on April 12 

Boris Johnson (pictured today in Middlesbrough) said proof of vaccination and having had a test could help provide 'maximum confidence to businesses and customers in the UK'

Boris Johnson (pictured today in Middlesbrough) said proof of vaccination and having had a test could help provide 'maximum confidence to businesses and customers in the UK'

Boris Johnson (pictured today in Middlesbrough) said proof of vaccination and having had a test could help provide ‘maximum confidence to businesses and customers in the UK’

The trade bodies said demanding details – alongside the potential need for negative tests and proof of vaccination – from customers was ‘a triple whammy for hard-pressed publicans who have been forcibly closed for months’.

The statement read: ‘It now seems the hospitality industry could be burdened with vaccine passports, and over-complicated test and trace rules.

‘This could prevent millions of young people visiting the pub for months, unless they get themselves tested in advance.’

They added: ‘Pubs will already be trading at a loss when they reopen with all the existing restrictions and Covid-secure measures in place.

‘Adding further disproportionate and discriminatory measures threatens the very survival of thousands of businesses.’

Their statement comes as England’s Covid outbreak continues to shrink, with the country’s cases dropping by a third in a week and deaths continuing to fall.

Department of Health bosses posted 4,479 lab-confirmed cases today and 51 deaths — down 20 per cent on the same time last week.

Figures also showed more second vaccine doses (404,922) than first shots (241,906) were dished out for the second day in a row.

Pubs and other venues could require customers to show a vaccine passport to gain entry (file image)

Pubs and other venues could require customers to show a vaccine passport to gain entry (file image)

Pubs and other venues could require customers to show a vaccine passport to gain entry (file image)

Earlier today, the PM said during a visit to Middlesbrough that there is ‘definitely going to be a world in which international travel will use vaccine passports’.

Ministers are due to report with their initial findings on the subject on Monday next week but the PM is facing a growing battle to get a scheme passed into law after Sir Keir Starmer suggested needing a passport to go to the pub would be un-British.

The Labour leader hinted that his party could line up alongside Tory rebels to oppose the idea, raising the prospect of Mr Johnson struggling to get legislation through the House of Commons.

One Tory MP said on the potential for the Government to lose a vote on vaccine passports: ‘If Labour are not onside that puts it in a totally different position.’

Another Tory MP warned against rolling out domestic certificates as they said some people may be unable to have a jab and therefore the policy would result in an ‘unfair two-tier system’.

Mr Johnson’s comments on vaccine passports for international travel were welcomed by the Airlines UK trade body. 

It said a digital system built on vaccination status and test results ‘will make it easier for customers’ to travel but stressed there is a need for a ‘common international approach’.   

Sir Keir Starmer (pictured) said demanding vaccine passports for entering pubs or sporting events would go against the ‘British instinct’

GP surgeries, hospitals and supermarkets are set to be exempt from Covid vaccine passport

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.  

Sir Keir said in an interview with the The Daily Telegraph that demanding certificates to enter pubs or sporting events would go against the ‘British instinct’ and indicated there could be public opposition if Covid death rates are near zero and hospital admissions are very low.

Mr Johnson last week suggested pubs and other venues could require customers to show a vaccine passport – which are likely to feature a combination of vaccine and testing data – to gain entry.

But while the idea has strong support among the public, according to polls, it is opposed by hospitality industry figures and some politicians on economic and civil liberties grounds.

Sir Keir said his ‘instinct’ told him there will be ‘a British sense that we don’t actually want to go down this road’ as the pandemic comes to an end.

The Labour leader said: ‘My instinct is that, as the vaccine is rolled out, as the number of hospital admissions and deaths go down, there will be a British sense that we don’t actually want to go down this road.’

He continued: ‘I think this is really difficult and I’m not going to pretend there’s a clear black and white, yes-no easy answer on this.

‘It is extremely difficult. My instinct is that… (if) we get the virus properly under control, the death rates are near zero, hospital admissions very, very low, that the British instinct in those circumstances will be against vaccine passports.’

Some Tory MPs, led by the former Cabinet minister David Davis, have expressed serious concerns about the potential use of domestic vaccine passports. 

Mr Davis, who has backed using the documents for international travel, said using them to determine entry to pubs or other businesses could be illegal. 

Mr Johnson said today: ‘There’s definitely going to be a world in which international travel will use vaccine passports.

‘You can see already that other countries, the aviation industry, are interested in this and there’s a logic to that.

‘I think when it comes to trying to make sure that we give maximum confidence to businesses and customers in the UK, there are three things – there’s immunity whether you have had it before so you have natural antibodies, whether you have been vaccinated, and of course whether you have had a test.’

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford said he had been in discussions with the UK Government about a vaccine passport scheme. 

He said: ‘There are positive prizes to be won from having a successful vaccine certification scheme but there are many practical and ethical issues that will need to be addressed and resolved successfully if those positive opportunities can be won from it.’ 

An Airlines UK spokesman said: ‘A proper integrated digital solution that can verify travellers’ data across borders, be it testing results or vaccination status, will make it easier for customers and remove further complexity to the passenger journey, therefore making travel more attractive. 

‘The PM’s words are therefore extremely welcome as is the commitment of the UK Government to work with the EU and through the G7 to agree a common international approach to passports, that can satisfy concerns around data and privacy whilst being recognised in as many countries as possible around the world.’ 

Just 38% of Britain’s restaurants and pubs have outdoor space needed to reopen on April 12 – as South East fares best with just over half of venues able to serve al-fresco food and drink 

The South West of Britain leads the ranks in terms of pubs that have outdoor space, with 91.7% falling into that category, followed by the South & South East on 74.8%

The South West of Britain leads the ranks in terms of pubs that have outdoor space, with 91.7% falling into that category, followed by the South & South East on 74.8%

The South West of Britain leads the ranks in terms of pubs that have outdoor space, with 91.7% falling into that category, followed by the South & South East on 74.8%

More than half of Britain’s pubs and restaurants will be forced to remain closed when lockdown restrictions ease because they do not have outdoor space.  

Under the next relaxation of coronavirus rules, a swathe of freedoms will be restored on April 12 under the current timetable.

This includes a long-awaited reopening for pubs and restaurants in England, which will be able to serve customers in alfresco seating areas.

But despite being given the green light to open, hospitality venues across the country will still be locked after April 12 because just 41,100, or 38.2 per cent, have outdoor space, according to overall data. 

Only 33.1 per cent of operators in London have space they can use outside and only 22.9 per cent of venues in Scotland – which will see sites reopen from April 26 – have outdoor areas. 

Breaking the data further down, by region and type of venue, shows stark differences in each region’s proliferation of open-spaced venues.  

The South West of Britain leads the ranks in terms of pubs that have outdoor space, with 91.7% falling into that category, followed by the South & South East on 74.8%. 

Scotland was the region with the lowest percentage, with less than half – 44.9% – of pubs able to host customers outside. 

Overall data: More than 41,000 pubs, bars and restaurants have some kind of outdoor space which could allow them to reopen on April 12. The South West leads the way, with 51.1 per cent of venues boasting outdoor areas

Overall data: More than 41,000 pubs, bars and restaurants have some kind of outdoor space which could allow them to reopen on April 12. The South West leads the way, with 51.1 per cent of venues boasting outdoor areas

Overall data: More than 41,000 pubs, bars and restaurants have some kind of outdoor space which could allow them to reopen on April 12. The South West leads the way, with 51.1 per cent of venues boasting outdoor areas

These differences are also present in the figures for restaurants. The East of Britain boasts the highest percentage of restaurants with outdoor spaces – 31.2% – and the South West again holds a prominent position, in second place with 30.6%.

The figure is in the high twenties for much of the rest of England – including Lancashire, London, the North East and Yorkshire – but Scotland and Wales remain in single figures.

Just 8.5% of restaurants in Wales have outside spaces, and only 5.1% in Scotland.

The data comes amid bleak figures which show the number of licensed premises over the past year fell by some 7,592 to 107,516, laying bare the devastating toll of the pandemic.  

From April 12, diners will be able to meet in a group of up to six people from different households, while a maximum of two households can meet to form a group of any size. Indoor dining will only be allowed after May 17. 

The latest monthly Market Recovery Monitor by CGA and AlixPartners has revealed that 38.2 per cent of licensed premises in the UK say they have space to allow them to trade.

Firms have said they will plan to utilise gardens, terraces, car parks and other areas where they can potentially seat guests to reopen when outdoor hospitality is given the go-ahead in the next phase of the Prime Minister’s road map.

More than 41,000 pubs, bars and restaurants have some kind of outdoor space which could allow them to reopen on April 12. 

However, the proportion of operators able to operate outside fluctuates significantly depending on their specific area of the hospitality market.

More than 80 per cent of community pubs have said they have appropriate outdoor space to reopen.

However, only 11.9 per cent of casual dining restaurants have such space, meaning further pain for many chains which have been hit hard in the past 12 months.

The report also said that a significant number of sites with outdoor space will still be unlikely to trade from mid-April because of limitations to their space and the cost of equipping or staffing them being unprofitable.

It highlighted that punters in the south-west of England will be best placed come April 12, with 51.1 per cent of premises in the area having outdoor space.  


Source link

bourbiza

Bourbiza Mohamed. Writer and Political Discourse Analysis.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Back to top button