Ministers Pressuring Boris to Reconsider Immunity Certificates for Domestic Use: Report

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 15: Prime Minister Boris Johnson gestures as he visits a coronavirus vaccination centre at the Health and Well-being Centre in Orpington, south-east London on February 14, 2021 in London, England. The visit coincides with the country surpassing 15 million people who have received at least one …
Jeremy Selwyn-WPA Pool/Getty Images

Government ministers are reportedly pressuring Prime Minister Boris Johnson to reconsider his personal objections to the introduction of immunity certificates for domestic use, which the senior MPs claim could help save the hospitality and entertainment industries.

In the past week, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has confirmed that the government is in negotiations with other countries on vaccine passports to reopen avenues for international travel after countries like Greece and Denmark announced they were looking into similar schemes.

While Prime Minister Johnson admitted on Monday that such documentation will “inevitably” come into play, he remained opposed to the prospect of immunity certificates for domestic use such as for going to the cinema or the pub.

Sources speaking to The Times, however, said that ministers are working on changing the prime minister’s mind, acknowledging that while he may remain against the idea, businesses, particularly those badly effective by the lockdowns, may demand them from customers as condition of entry.

“We’re talking about industries that are dying here. In terms of getting live music, theatre and other parts of the entertainment industry back on their feet, it seems an obvious thing to do once the majority of people have been vaccinated,” a senior minister told the newspaper of record on Wednesday.

Vaccine Minister Nadhim Zahawi told BBC Breakfast on Tuesday that the government was “not planning a domestic passport”, however, seniors’ care homes, schools, and cinemas are said to be amongst the groups calling for their implementation.

Mr Zahawi admitted that “it’s up to businesses what they do”. The vaccine minister had before said that while the UK would not force people to take the vaccination, many businesses may demand proof of immunity before entry and that the government may enable such schemes through government-run systems like the NHS’s test and trace app.

For months, the Conservative government has given mixed messages on vaccine passports or immunity certificates. While Mr Johnson expressed his opposition to immunity certificates for domestic use, he admitted on Monday that nightclubs, pubs, and other hospitality venues could demand proof of vaccination.

“I think that will be the route that we go down and that businesses will go down,” the prime minister said on Monday, adding: “You are already seeing lots of business using the potential of rapid, on-the-day testing as well. I think that, in combination with vaccination, will probably be the route forward.”

On Sunday, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab suggested that immunity certificates may be needed even to go into the supermarket, telling LBC that the idea “hasn’t been ruled out and it’s under consideration, but of course you’ve got to make it workable”.

“Whether it’s at an international, domestic or local level, you’ve got to know that the document being presented is something that you can rely on and that it’s an accurate reflection of the status of the individual,” Mr Raab added.

Anti-Brexit plumbing mogul Charlie Mullins announced in January a “no vaccine, no jobs” policy and while an employment lawyer at the time said that the move would be illegal, government sources later told the media that employers might have the right to fire staff who refuse the vaccine — on the grounds of health and safety — unless they have a medical reason exempting them.

Analysis by The Times on Wednesday said that the law on immunity certificates was “opaque” and while ministers may brand them “discriminatory”, other employment lawyers disagree.

Sky News reported on Wednesday that every adult could receive both doses of the vaccine by August or September. So far, 15 million people have been vaccinated in the UK, including everyone in the top four tiers of vulnerability.

Mr Johnson is also said to be preparing mass testing ahead of any lockdown restriction easing, including testing people who have shown no signs of the virus.

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