UK Flip Flops on Vaccine Passports Again: Health Passes for Pubs Planned for ‘Autumn Wave’

Police officers patrol the streets after a day where customers were able to drink at tables outside the pubs and bars in the Soho area of London, on April 12, 2021 after coronavirus restrictions were eased across the country in step two of the government's roadmap out of England's third …
TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images

In a supposed bid to increase vaccine uptake among younger Britons, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government is reportedly looking to mandate vaccine passports for pubs, restaurants, and clubs by the autumn.

After a year of wavering back and forth on the question of using vaccine passports domestically, the British government is said to be seeking to implement a system that would require proof of double vaccination for Britons to enjoy a social life.

“In autumn vaccine passports could become an important tool that will allow us to keep things open,” a Downing Street insider told The Times.

Another government source added: “If we can show real benefits of getting vaccinated in terms of everyday life then it could be quite a useful tool.”

While Cabinet Minister Michael Gove flatly denied that the government would mandate citizens to show health papers domestically back in December, the issue has remained stubbornly on the table.

The review into the issue — headed up by Mr Gove — said this week that the government would consider implementing vaccine passports if England faces “a difficult situation in autumn or winter”.

There has been widespread opposition to the use of vaccine passports domestically, with business leaderschurch leaders, and politicians from both the Conservative and Labour Party coming out against the scheme.

According to The Times, government sources said they were reticent to include a health pass mandate during this month’s scheduled lifting of lockdown restrictions as it could lead to discrimination against younger people, who may not have had the opportunity to be jabbed against the Chinese virus.

Yet, by mid-September, the government believes that all those above the age of 18 in England will have had the ability to be fully vaccinated, and therefore vaccine passports in pubs and other venues where social distancing is impossible could be on the cards.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said earlier this week that while he would not seek to mandate such a scheme, businesses would be free to require patrons to demonstrate their vaccination status, echoing earlier proposals from vaccines minister Nadim Zahawi.

The latest U-turn on the issue of vaccine passports comes amid a wider call from the scientific establishment to keep lockdown restrictions in place, amid rising cases of the Indian (Delta) variant of the virus.

While deaths have remained relatively low, the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges has warned that the United Kingdom is “already in the turmoil of a third wave” and that “there is little doubt that things will get worse before they get better”.

Calling on people to remain masked after the expected lifting of restrictions, the group said in a statement: “Medical royal colleges, as the professional voice of doctors, believe that continuing to be cautious is the right thing to do for both individuals and organisations.”

Earlier this week it was reported that the Chief Medical Officer of England, Professor Chris Whitty, told government ministers to not expect a return to normality until next spring, and that the government should brace for a “quite difficult winter”.

The government has also called on people not to delete the NHS track and trace app, which has been mooted as a possible platform for vaccine passports.

“The prime minister has been clear that he continues to use it. We continue to ask people to isolate if they are asked to through the app,” the PM’s spokesman said on Friday.

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here @KurtZindulka

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