Government ditches plans for vaccine passports in England

In a major U-turn, the government has ditched plans to introduce vaccine passports for access to large events in England.

Health secretary Sajid Javid confirmed on Sunday (12 September) that the planned introduction of vaccine passports by the end of September would not now go ahead, but said that they were being kept in reserve as a potential option.

Speaking to the BBC, Javid said: “We just shouldn’t be doing things for the sake of it or because others are doing, and we should look at every possible intervention properly.

He added that he had never liked the idea of telling people to show papers to do everyday activities.

“We’ve looked at it properly and, whilst we should keep it in reserve as a potential option, I’m pleased to say that we will not be going ahead with plans for vaccine passports,” he said.

The move comes just days after vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi defended the scheme in the Commons as the “best way” to keep large venues open.

Backbench Tory MPs lined up to savage the policy in Parliament, but the health secretary denied that the government was “running scared”. He that other things in the wall of defence against Covid-19, such as testing, surveillance, new treatments and high vaccine uptake, meant that vaccine passports were not needed.

The announcement appears to bring to an end months of uncertainty for event organisers, after prime minister Boris Johnson gave notice in July that vaccine passports would be introduced for nightclubs and some other settings by the end of September.

The plans had drawn heavy criticism from nightclub owners, with the Night Time Industries Association claiming that vaccine passports could “cripple the industry” and see clubs facing discrimination cases.

Politically, the prime minister had also faced opposition to the plans from MPs in his own party in the Covid Recovery Group, while Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey described them as “divisive, unworkable and expensive”.

The move to scrap the plans draws a line between England and Scotland, after Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that vaccine passports will be required for entry to many large events in Scotland from October.

The Welsh Government has said it is considering the case for the use of Covid passes for entry into higher risk settings, but is yet to commit to any plans.

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