Vaccine passports 'will NOT be required to attend large events'

Vaccine passports ‘will NOT be legally required to attend large events’ says Government source after months of wrangling

  • Vaccine passports ‘not expected to be legally required for large events’
  • Ministers are examining if certificates could be used to allow mass gatherings
  • Michael Gove suggested to MPs last week vaccine passports may not be needed

Vaccine passports are not expected to be legally required for large events after the Government ran into opposition from Tory backbenchers who oppose their domestic use on civil liberties grounds. 

Ministers are examining whether the controversial Covid status certificates in use in countries including Israel could be used to allow football matches, big concerts and festivals resume at full capacity.

The certificates would show that an individual had either had one or both Covid jabs, a recent negative test, or antibodies after catching the virus.

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove told MPs last week the costs and benefits of introducing them were ‘finely balanced’, as he suggested they may not be needed.

But last night a government source told the Telegraph: ‘It’s not a case of ‘it’s finely balanced’. It’s not going to happen. Everyone says it’s dead.’

The decision not to announce legal changes to mandate passports is likely to be treated as a triumph by backbench Tory MPs, who vowed to join with Labour rebels to defeat the move. 

A government spokesman said: ‘The Covid status certification review is ongoing and no final decisions have been taken yet. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster will update Parliament after recess.’

A Whitehall source said: ‘Michael has been listening very carefully to the arguments for and against Covid certification and the review has left no stone unturned in examining whether there is a case for them domestically. 

‘He will make recommendations to the PM soon’. 

It comes as ministers prepare contingency plans to extend restrictions beyond June 21, amid fears that a surge in cases of the Indian variant could lead to a spike in hospital admissions and deaths.

Yesterday daily Covid cases have risen by nearly 40 per cent in a week to 3,240 while deaths remain flat at just six as 537,000 more vaccinations were carried out in England yesterday.  

Ministers are examining whether the Covid status certificates could be used to allow football matches, big concerts and festivals resume at full capacity. Stock image 

Pictured, people attending a test music festival as part of a national research programme in Liverpool, May 2, 2021

Department of Health figures published yesterday show that daily cases have risen from 2,325 last Sunday to 3,240 today, while deaths rose just one in a week – from five last Sunday to six

The NHS is racing to give millions of over-50s their second Covid vaccine shot by June 21 to allow England to open up on ‘Freedom Day’ as hoped.

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi yesterday set a deadline for the first time amid increasing concern at the highly transmissible new Indian variant of the disease.

Around 5million people aged over 50 are waiting for their second dose, with the NHS needing to vaccinate 225,000 of them every day to meet the target.

But second jabs were handed out at a rate of more than 400,000 a day most days last week, meaning it would take something catastrophic to knock the drive off course. Ministers hope that by hitting the target, it will help them avoid delaying the ‘unlockdown date’, which Boris Johnson has set for three weeks’ time.

Asked on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show whether the vaccine rollout was enough to ensure that all restrictions are lifted on that date, Mr Zahawi said: ‘We are in a race between vaccinating at scale and making sure people get their two doses.

‘We saw very good data from Public Health England around the protection from two doses, either of Pfizer or of AstraZeneca. We hope to be able to protect with two doses – all ‘one to nine’ [first phase priority groups], all the over-50s – before June 21. We will make sure we vaccinate at scale.

‘But – and here’s the important thing – we will share the evidence with the country on June 14 to basically explain exactly where we are on infection rates, hospitalisations and of course, sadly, of death.’

 

Mr Gove, who has been conducting a review into the idea, told the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee there were ‘benefits’ in a system of proof for negative tests and vaccines that could help reopen parts of society.

But he said there was also a lot of ‘hassle’ and ‘friction’ attached, and pointed out that Israel has already suspended its scheme. 

He suggested that even if certification is introduced it might not be by June 21 – meant to be the final stage of the Government’s unlocking roadmap – and it would be time-limited.  

Boris Johnson has already made clear there is ‘no prospect’ of proof being needed to do things like drink in a pub from June 21. 

The review had been due to report earlier this month, but that has now been delayed until the week of June 7 when the Commons returns from recess. 

‘We have been looking at every stage the impact certification might or might not have on the economy,’ he said.

‘So, to take a case in point, if it is the case that we want to see the restoration of Premier League football, which I certainly do, then in order for that to happen we would want to have, and indeed Premier League teams would also want to have, their stadia full to maximum capacity.

‘Certification may play a role in that if the alternative were to, for example, to continue with social distancing and other forms of restrictions such as crowd capacity limits.

‘So, in that sense, and that is just one example, the deployment of certification and the investment in that infrastructure would enable the economic and social life of the country to return more quickly and safely.’

But Mr Gove said there were ‘frictional costs’ involved with certification as testing would have to be continued for those who had not been vaccinated.

Asked how balanced in his view were the costs and benefits of such a scheme, he replied: ‘Finely balanced.’

He said the advantages had to be set against the ‘hassle factor’ of implementing them.

The UK has been examining the Israeli ‘green pass’ model, but Mr Gove highlighted that the scheme has recently been suspended due to the high uptake of vaccinations in the country.

He said even if a similar scheme is brought in for the UK it will be ‘for a time-limited period’.

Mr Gove said there was not an ‘ironclad’ link between the June 21 date earmarked for the next stage of the road map out of lockdown and the possible introduction of Covid status certification.

‘People have quite rightly linked Covid status certification to stage four. There’s no absolute necessary ironclad inviolable link between the two,’ he said.

‘But, naturally, as we contemplate reopening at stage four, people will understandably want to know what our approach towards certification will be and how that will operate.’ 

‘You can never make any venue or any activity completely safe and … even two doses of vaccination doesn’t automatically inoculate someone completely against the risk of infection, transmission or, indeed, ill health.

‘What it does do is dramatically reduce the risk. If one can have confidence that people in a venue have been vaccinated or have immunity in another way, or have recently received a valid test which confirms their negative status, then you can know that that venue will be safer.

Daily coronavirus cases have risen by nearly 40 per cent in a week to 3,240 as deaths rose by 20 per cent while more than 537,000 vaccinations were carried out in England yesterday

Jabs for jobs: NHS workers will be legally required to have Covid vaccinations under new plans with up to one in five health staff in some areas still unvaccinated 

Covid vaccinations would become compulsory for NHS staff under bold new plans being considered by ministers to crack down on transmission in hospitals.

It is believed that under the plans, having a jab would become a condition of employment by the health service.

The Government has already consulted on whether to make jabs compulsory for social care workers and ministers are now weighing up whether to do the same for medics.

The scale of the change in rules is practically unprecedented in the NHS, although Health Secretary Matt Hancock has previously cited the requirement for doctors to have a hepatitis B vaccine.

‘Set against that, of course, has to be the question about the cost and indeed the … hassle factor that certification will involve, so it always has to be a balance between the two.’

Department of Health figures published yesterday show that daily cases have risen from 2,325 last Sunday to 3,240 today, while deaths rose just one in a week – from five last Sunday to six.

Meanwhile, NHS England announced 54,379,320 jabs were given across the country between December 8 and May 29, including first and second doses – which is a rise of 537,283 on the previous day. Of these, there were 155,467 more first doses and 381,816 more second doses.

A total of 6,900,813 jabs were given to people in London between December 8 and May 29, including 4,334,097 first doses and 2,566,716 second doses, NHS England said. This compares with 6,182,099 first doses and 4,157,677 second doses given to people in the Midlands – a total of 10,339,776.

Despite the success of the jabs roll-out, Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi said the Government is waiting for the latest data on June 14 before deciding whether to proceed with the unlocking as planned.  

NHS chiefs have warned that hospitals are under ‘worrying’ pressure with uncertainty over the transmissibility of the Indian variant and the number of people not fully vaccinated. 

Between May 19 and 25, 870 people went into hospital with coronavirus, an increase of 23.2 per cent compared with the previous seven days. 

Though current data suggest that admissions are rising in some parts of the country, they are at very low levels compared with the winter peak. 

Meanwhile, the reproduction number – the R value – for England is 1 to 1.1, up from 0.9 and 1.1 the previous week, suggesting the epidemic is growing as the fast-spreading Indian variant becomes the dominant strain.

Health experts are now calling the June 21 unlocking ‘too early’ and are urging No10 not to ‘charge ahead’. 

However, hospitality leaders are calling for clarity on whether restrictions will be extended beyond June 21 after firms suffered big losses during the pandemic last year. 

British Beer and Pub Association chief executive Emma McClarkin told the BBC: ‘If the Government does leave any lingering restrictions in play then they really need to give us advance notice of that and it needs to talk seriously about financial compensation. 

‘But right now we are asking the Government to stick to their road map.’

Labour leader Keir Starmer suggested the biggest risk to easing lockdown was ‘incompetence’ in the Government, as he claimed ‘weak, slow decisions’ on border policy had allowed the Indian variant to spread.

Race to double-jab the over-50s: Huge NHS drive to give maximum Covid protection to older people before June 21 to secure our freedom date    

The NHS is racing to give millions of over-50s their second Covid vaccine shot by June 21 to allow England to open up on ‘Freedom Day’ as hoped.

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi yesterday set a deadline for the first time amid increasing concern at the highly transmissible new Indian variant of the disease.

Around 5million people aged over 50 are waiting for their second dose, with the NHS needing to vaccinate 225,000 of them every day to meet the target.

But second jabs were handed out at a rate of more than 400,000 a day most days last week, meaning it would take something catastrophic to knock the drive off course. 

Ministers hope that by hitting the target, it will help them avoid delaying the ‘unlockdown date’, which Boris Johnson has set for three weeks’ time.

Asked on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show whether the vaccine rollout was enough to ensure that all restrictions are lifted on that date, Mr Zahawi said: ‘We are in a race between vaccinating at scale and making sure people get their two doses.

‘We saw very good data from Public Health England around the protection from two doses, either of Pfizer or of AstraZeneca. We hope to be able to protect with two doses – all ‘one to nine’ [first phase priority groups], all the over-50s – before June 21. We will make sure we vaccinate at scale.

‘But – and here’s the important thing – we will share the evidence with the country on June 14 to basically explain exactly where we are on infection rates, hospitalisations and of course, sadly, of death.’

The NHS is racing to give millions of over-50s their second Covid vaccine shot by June 21 to allow England to open up on ‘Freedom Day’ as hoped [File photo]

To meet the deadline, many people have already been told they will receive second jabs earlier than expected – eight weeks rather than 12 after their first dose.

Over-50s are the priority for ‘double-jabbing’ because older people are much more likely to be hospitalised or die.

Only 3 per cent of those infected with the Indian variant had been double jabbed, according to official statistics, meaning scientists are confident it gives great protection against the strain.

Soldiers with the Royal Horse Artillery yesterday helped volunteers hand out Covid tests door-to-door in Bolton, where the Indian variant is prominent.

It emerged at the weekend that the NHS has now jabbed more than half of people in their 30s, and there are hopes that those in their 20s will be invited soon.

The Department of Health said the new deadline announced by the vaccines minister was a target rather than a commitment.

‘We have to be cautious,’ said Mr Zahawi. ‘Are we still vaccinating at scale? Big tick. Are the vaccines working? Yes. But are infection rates too high for us to then not be able to proceed because there are too many going into hospital?

‘I don’t know the answer, but we will know it, hopefully, on the 14th, a few more weeks of steady as she goes and we’ll get there.’ All legal limits on social contact are due to be lifted in England on June 21, a step Mr Johnson has described as ‘irreversible’ once taken.

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi (pictured) yesterday set a deadline for the first time amid increasing concern at the highly transmissible new Indian variant of the disease

But ministers are now in a race with the new strain, with almost half of all new cases thought to be the Indian variant.

Last week the Prime Minister admitted his June 21 plans now hang in the balance. He said he ‘didn’t see anything currently in the data’ to derail the reopening, but added that ‘we may need to wait’.

Linda Bauld, professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh, yesterday described the date as ‘too early’.

She told Sky News: ‘The 21st of June is very soon and I think to avoid more preventable deaths… we really need to be cautious at the current time.’ 

Dr Mike Tildesley, from the University of Warwick and a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (Spi-M) government advisory panel, said ‘an awful lot of uncertainty’ surrounded the plans.

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, said hospitals are already under ‘worrying’ pressure and bosses were concerned about the transmissibility of the Indian variant and the large number of people who have still to receive doses of the vaccine. 

He warned that although hospitals were not expecting to be overwhelmed by a surge of Covid-19 cases, they were already stretched by going ‘full pelt’ on dealing with the backlog of cases. 

Mr Zahawi also said the UK’s medicines regulator and scientific advisers still have to look ‘very carefully’ at whether Covid jabs can be offered to children. He said on Sky News: ‘You have to make sure the vaccines are incredibly safe before you give them to children.’   

Restaurant and pub bosses blame furlough for lack of staff as they struggle to fill 190,000 vacancies amid fears many people will lose the will to work

Pub and restaurant bosses have called for an end to the furlough scheme as they desperately struggle to fill 190,000 job vacancies.

Several businesses say they cannot get the staff needed to kickstart their recovery while millions remain on furlough.

There are fears that workers languishing on the job retention scheme, which runs until September, will lose the will to work.

The Office for National Statistics reported that a tenth of businesses’ workforce was on furlough in mid-April, or 2.7 million people. 

Pub and restaurant bosses are struggling to fill 190,000 job vacancies owing to the furlough scheme

Across the UK there are 700,000 job vacancies, including 188,000 in hospitality, where a million remained on furlough before the May 17 reopening.

Bosses say some staff would rather stay at home on 80 per cent of their full salary than get a new job. 

But the industry said the scheme is needed to protect jobs because many businesses will operate below full capacity until restrictions are lifted.

Dermot King of Oakman Inns says some people do not want to return to work

Dermot King, chief executive of Oakman Inns, said: ‘There is definitely a case of people who would prefer not to come back from furlough to take up work. I think furlough has done its job.’ 

Jamie Rogers, who owns a restaurant in Kingsbridge, Devon, is offering a £1,000 bonus to recruits to work in the summer.

He told the Sun on Sunday: ‘Right now I only have 15 staff and need 20 to be fully operational. We are turning away bookings every day.’

The furlough scheme is also beginning to draw criticism from economists. 

Professor Len Shackleton, from the Institute of Economic Affairs, said: ‘It has gone on for far too long.

‘We should not be holding back new businesses which need workers in a vain attempt to keep old businesses alive.’ 

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