By Spy Uganda Correspondent
The government of England has announced that vaccine passports will be required for nightclubs, mass events and large venues by the end of September, the vaccines minister has confirmed, saying that would allow businesses to stay open during the winter months if Covid-19 surges.
Nadhim Zahawi said the government wanted to “make sure the whole economy remains open” through the autumn amid fears that a return to school could set off a new wave of infections.
“We are looking at, by the end of September when everyone has had the opportunity to be fully vaccinated, for the large venues, venues that could end up causing a real spike in infections, where we need to use the certification process,” Zahawi said.
“If you look at what the FA have done, they’ve done so brilliantly in terms of checking vaccine status to reopen football. That is the sort of right thing to do and we are absolutely on track to continue to make sure that we do that.”
Vaccine passports, which can be shown via the NHS app, have been fiercely opposed by some Conservative MPs. But Zahawi said Boris Johnson was committed to the plan.
“The reason being is that, I, as does the prime minister, want to make sure the whole economy remains open,” he said. “The worst thing we can do for those venues is to have a sort of open-shut-open-shut strategy because we see infection rates rise because of the close interaction of people, that’s how the virus spreads, if people are in close spaces in large numbers we see spikes appearing.
“The best thing to do then is to work with the industry to make sure that they can open safely and sustainably in the long term, and the best way to do that is to check vaccine status.”
Zahawi also reiterated that parents of healthy 12- to 15-year-olds wiould be asked for consent if coronavirus jabs were approved for their children – expected to be pushed through by ministers this week.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) decided against backing the move on health grounds alone, since Covid-19 presents such a low risk to younger teenagers. However, that decision is likely to be overruled by the UK’s chief medical officers, who will take wider considerations into account – such as disruption to education.
Prof Peter Openshaw has leant his weight to the push towards vaccinating.
Zahawi said no final decision had been made. “We have not made any decisions, so we haven’t decided not to listen to the experts,” he said.
“On the contrary, all four ministers, the secretary of state [for health] Sajid Javid and his fellow ministers in the devolved administrations have agreed to ask the chief medical officers to convene expert groups, including the JCVI being in that, to be able to recommend which way we should go on healthy 12- to 15-year-olds.”