ANOTHER Vaccine Passport U-Turn? ‘Haven’t Been Ruled out Forever’, Says Govt Minister

Anti-Vaccine and anti-lockdown protestors march through central London, on June 26, 2021. (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP) (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images)
DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images

Less than 24 hours after a leading government secretary announced the cancellation of plans to introduce vaccine passports for the end of this month, another minister has said that no formal decision had been made, and they “haven’t been ruled out forever”.

Barely a fortnight away from the threatened domestic vaccine passports for nightclubs and large events, Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced on Sunday that the measures would be scrapped — at least for now — saying: “What I can say, is that we have looked at it properly and whilst we should keep it in reserve as a potential option, I’m pleased to say we will not be going ahead with plans for vaccine passports.”

However, by early Monday, Work and Pensions Minister Thérèse Coffey had said in several interviews in her morning media rounds that, in fact, even if vaccine passports were postponed, the threat of them still remained if the government so wished to impose them.

“As Sajid Javid set out yesterday, although the formal decision is still to be made, but having reflected and looked at the details of the proposal that it’s not deemed necessary at this moment in time. But they haven’t been ruled out forever,” Ms Coffey told BBC Breakfast.

Appearing to confirm earlier suggestions that the threat was merely to pressure young people into being vaccinated, the minister continued: “It’s reflecting the fact that a lot of young people have come forward and got their vaccinations over the summer.”

Reiterating that vaccine passports remain a possibility, Coffey also told LBC’s Nick Ferrari that “it’s decided they’re not necessary for now”, but they remain a “potential tool” for the future.

Indeed, Mr Javid had, while giving the indication that vaccine passports were scrapped, left the possibility open when he stated on Sunday that they are “reserve[d] as a potential option” — giving the government the freedom to threaten their use again, without, at least technically, appearing to break a pledge.

The government has for months been sending mixed messages on vaccine passports — notably, Vaccine Minister Nadhim Zahawi who promised no such measures in January before doubling down on their impending imposition this month — with the point not escaping the notice of journalists interrogating Coffey on Monday.

Confronted on Mr Javid’s remarks from Sunday, and the government’s “mixed messaging” on vaccine passports, Coffey gave Sky News’s Niall Paterson only the response that no formal decision made been made, but “all the indications” are that they would at least not be introduced this month.

“When I sat on the Cabinet committee several months ago where we discussed looking into vaccine passports, there was indication we would be minded to bring that in towards the end of September, but we’ll review it at the right time.

“But that formal decision will be made and the outcome of that announced, but all the indications are from the health secretary is that we do not need to introduce the vaccine passport at the end of the month,” Coffey said.

Speaking to The Times on Monday, sources from Number 10 Downing Street also indicated that domestic vaccine passports remain the “first-line defence” against a coronavirus wave this Winter, but would not be introduced automatically at the end of this month.

The newspaper added that Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected on Tuesday to announce the government’s Winter Covid-19 plans, including that mandatory mask-wearing in enclosed public spaces could return as well as advising many employees to work from home. Domestic vaccine passports could also still become a legal requirement for entry to large events in England.

Scotland is set to introduce vaccine passports on October 1st, while Northern Ireland has not reached an official position, and Wales is to make a decision next week.

Chairman of the Conservative lockdown-sceptic Covid Recovery Group Mark Harper said: “They [domestic vaccine passports] shouldn’t be kept in reserve — they are pointless, damaging and discriminatory.”

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