Vaccine passports

Watch: Sajid Javid confronted by unjabbed NHS doctor

Since becoming Health Secretary there has been one big question Sajid Javid cannot answer: how can he justify firing a worker who has recovered from Covid, has antibodies and doesn’t want the vaccine? Javid first did this with unjabbed care home workers and now plans to fire unjabbed NHS doctors. Today he met one of them — and it didn’t go well. Javid’s answer? He didn’t have one During a visit to King’s College Hospital in south London, Javid was on camera talking to NHS staff asking them what they thought about his plans for compulsory vaccination. He presumably expected them to agree. But then along comes Steve James, an intensive care doctor who

MPs who voted for vaccine passports

In spite of a last-minute plea from Boris Johnson to the 1922 committee, exactly one hundred Tory backbenchers voted against the government on the introduction of Covid certification passes. With Labour announcing in advance that they would support Sajid Javid in implementing the so-called ‘Plan B’ measures, it was obvious that they would always pass. But few were expecting such a large Tory revolt, with audible gasps being heard when the tellers read out the result. The rebellion was nearly twice as large as the previous biggest revolt of Johnson’s administration in December 2020, also on Covid and the introduction of tier restrictions. For context, some 118 Tory MPs voted

Vaccine passports may prove a pointless distraction from Omicron

Sajid Javid ditched vaccine passports when he became Health Secretary but he now has to bring them in again, albeit in an updated form where a lateral flow negative test will also be accepted. But how to get this past the Commons where 65 MPs have now decided to rebel? How to do this now given that the argument – that vaccine passports restrict transmissibility – has now collapsed? The big news is that the AstraZeneca vaccine has ‘zero’ effect on people catching Omicron. The vaccine still offers protection from getting seriously ill, but the premise of vaccine passports – that the double-jabbed are less likely to be infectious than the unjabbed – has

What’s the evidence for England’s vaccine passports?

The Prime Minister has just announced Plan B. Working from home has been all but mandated and large venues — as well as nightclubs — will be required to check for vaccine passports. But where is the evidence for this, and what does the data say? Johnson’s vaccine passport idea copies Nicola Sturgeon’s policy in Scotland which was found, in a 70-page evidence paper, not to have had any measurable effect. As evidence Chris Whitty presented South African hospitalisations — a country with less than a third vaccinated. When Omicron was discovered the government said we should wait for data to be gathered before reacting. Sensible, given the huge economic

Government scraps mandatory vaccine passports

On BBC One’s Andrew Marr show Sajid Javid confirmed that plans for domestic vaccine passports in England were on the way out, even before they were formally brought in: ‘We should keep it in reserve,’ he said of the government’s plans to link vaccine status to entry into nightclubs, but ‘I’m pleased to say we will not be going ahead with plans for vaccine passports.’ Vaccine passports have been a roller-coaster policy for months now, with claims made by members of the Cabinet at the start of the year that they weren’t being considered: that nothing so ‘discriminatory’, in the words of vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi, would be implemented. Since then,

Sunday shows round-up: ‘I’m not anticipating any more lockdowns’ says Javid

Sajid Javid – I’m not anticipating any more lockdowns The Health Secretary was the main guest of the day on BBC One’s Andrew Marr show, hosted this morning by Nick Robinson. Robinson asked Javid about the likelihood that Christmas could be threatened once again by lockdown. Javid responded by saying that it was highly unlikely that the UK would see itself in a similar position to last year, even with an expected surge of the virus over this winter: SJ: I’m not anticipating any more lockdowns… I just don’t see how we get to another lockdown. Vaccine passports will not go ahead Last week, the Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi appeared

Is the government bluffing on vaccine passports?

Over the past week, the government have been upping the ante when it comes to calls for vaccine passports. Long gone are the days when ministers went out on the airwaves to declare that the UK was not a ‘papers please’ country. Instead, the Prime Minister has already declared that they will be needed to enter nightclubs from September while Dominic Raab this week promised to provide prior warning if – as has been reported – vaccine passports become mandatory for students at university. Long gone are the days when ministers went out on the airwaves to declare that the UK was not a ‘papers please’ country However, it’s something

The danger of vaccine passports for education

In one sense vaccines are the perfect example of the ‘greater good’. Every citizen bears a tiny risk to protect not just their own health but that of society as a whole. By contrast, I can think of few graver threats to that greater good than the introduction of vaccine passports. Until recently the accepted view in Westminster seemed to have been that vaccine passports of any kind were discriminatory. Nadhim Zahawi, the vaccines minister, was told by the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs committee last month that ‘Covid-status certification system would, by its very nature, be discriminatory.’ This all changed last week with the announcement that passports might, after

We need to act now to block Britain’s social credit system

I have to admit that I didn’t quite get it right when, 12 days ago, I wrote: ‘There is a model for what will be coming our way if we do not resist vaccination passports and electronic ID cards: China’s social credit system, which blacklists people for numerous antisocial offences, from crossing the street on a red light to failing to sort their recycling, and uses the information to deny them the right, for example, to buy rail and airline tickets.’ I had in mind that it would take two to five years for a vaccination passport scheme to morph into a Chinese-style social credit system. In fact, it took

Vaccine passports are a betrayal of young people

The government denied it for months. Michael Gove said there were no plans for them. Backbenchers professed that the idea was unethical, unthinkable and unenforceable. The vaccines minister, Nadhim Zahawi, said the public could hold him to his promise that vaccine passports were never going to become a reality. Yet in a rather predictable turn of events, the Prime Minister has this week announced that all over-18s will need to demonstrate that they have received both doses of a vaccine in order to enter nightclubs, venues and other large gatherings. From now on, ‘proof of a negative test will no longer be enough.’ Perhaps it’s our fault for continuing to

The rise of the unwhippable Tories

When the government announced a Commons vote on its decision to cut the foreign aid budget from 0.7 per cent of GNI to 0.5, the expectation was that the vote would be tight. In the end, the government won comfortably: it had a majority of 35. But despite their success, the whips would be wrong to be feeling triumphalist about this, I write in the magazine this week The usual whips’ line — if you keep your nose clean preferment might come your way — is ineffective Twenty-four Tories voted against the government, 14 of which were former ministers. The overwhelming majority of these are either uninterested in returning to

Israel scraps its redundant vaccine passports

So farewell, then, to Israel’s vaccine passport, the green pass. Less than three months after coming into effect, the Covid vaccination certification scheme was scrapped today, along with almost all of the remaining Covid-19 restrictions in public places. Israel was the first country to introduce a vaccine passport back in March. Cafes, bars, restaurants, gyms and plays were allowed to reopen to the public after months of lockdown, provided they only admitted vaccinated (and recovered) people. The pass took the form of a QR code downloaded from the health ministry or stored in a phone app. The scheme was vocally opposed by a small and passionate minority, but most Israelis

Vaccine passports for mass events might be the worst of all worlds

Are vaccine passports in our future? The ‘Covid-status certification’ review is underway, carved out of the Prime Minister’s roadmap and handed to Michael Gove in the Cabinet Office to assess and very possibly implement the scheme after Britain has been declared ‘free’. Since the first review update was published — clear on intention but vague on the details — there’s been plenty of speculation as to what kinds of events or establishments might require a passport to access them. Today we got some hints. A written statement from Gove has been published, on the ongoing ‘extensive review’ that has so far involved consulting ‘clinical, ethical, equalities and privacy specialists, faith and

Boris will need Labour support for vaccine passports

No prime minister wants to be dependent on the opposition to get the government’s business through the House of Commons. But this is the position Boris Johnson will likely find himself in when it comes to ‘Covid status certificates’, I argue in the magazine this week. Labour are sounding sceptical of vaccine passports at the moment More than 40 Tory MPs have already signed a pledge to oppose vaccine passports, and the government’s majority is 80. ‘It is just down to Starmer. If he whips against, Boris will lose,’ says one of the leaders of the Tory rebellion. The policy has hit a nerve in the Conservative party. Tory opponents

Does Keir Starmer really oppose vaccine passports?

As opposition grows to government plans to introduce vaccine passports, not even the Prime Minister appears keen to defend the proposals. In Monday’s press conference, Johnson refused to be drawn into a conversation about the plans and wouldn’t even say whether there would be a Commons vote on the policy. However, government figures suggest the proposals will be put to a vote should they be given the green light in government. So, how will Keir Starmer vote when the time comes? Today Labour have suggested they will oppose the plans for domestic vaccine passports in their current form. A Labour source told Politico they were unlikely to support the plans

Johnson is in trouble over vaccine passports – and it’s showing

The biggest question facing Boris Johnson is the future of his so-called vaccine passports. A few months ago, the idea was dismissed by No. 10 as ‘discriminatory’. Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, said: ‘We are not a papers-carrying country.’ But now, without debate or democratic scrutiny, vaccine passports are quickly heading from unthinkable to unstoppable. Today, No. 10 released more details — hence the questions Johnson is facing. But bizarrely, the Prime Minister was unable to admit to any of it, and pretended to be confused by what he was being asked. This matters. If he cannot acknowledge his flagship scheme, leaving such an indefensible gulf between what his government has just published and what he has just said, he may already be

Gove hints at vaccine passport app

It wasn’t so long ago that ministers were lining up on broadcast to insists vaccine passports were out of the question when it came to the UK. While they could be used for travel abroad, the UK was — as Matt Hancock put it — not a ‘papers, please’ country. Instead, the UK appears to be turning into an ‘app, please’ nation. On Monday, Michael Gove met with MPs across the House for a private ‘listening exercise’ on immunity IDs. Although the purpose of the session was supposedly to gather MPs’ thoughts on the issue of vaccine passports, attendees were left with the distinct impression that they would be going ahead regardless of

Vaccines should mean more freedom – not less

Do vaccines lead to freedom – or to more lockdown rules? That very question would have seemed bizarre a few weeks ago, when Matt Hancock told this magazine that he’d ‘cry freedom’ when the most vulnerable had been protected. But now, things are swinging the other way. The end of the second wave in Britain (infections and intensive care admissions are down 95 per cent from the peak) has not been followed by reopening. Instead, it’s being used as rationale to continue lockdown for months to come. The latest is international travel: the freedom to leave the country. As we reach the milestone of over half of UK adults having

Hancock’s vaccine passport confusion

Will they, won’t they? Only yesterday the Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab was saying vaccine passports were ‘under consideration’ — going directly against what Nadim Zahawi said just days before when he ruled out vaccine passports as discriminatory and un-British.  Raab was clear that the UK was looking at both domestic and foreign passports: that as well as looking at the possibility of their use for flights and international travel, the British government is also investigating whether such a document could be used for vaccinated individuals wanting to go into a restaurant or visit the supermarket.  So what does Matt Hancock have to say on the subject? On the Today programme just now, the Health

Vaccine passports for internal use are ‘under consideration’, says Raab

Only last week, vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi assured us that the government is not looking at vaccine passports as they would be discriminatory and un-British. So imagine Mr S’s astonishment when Dominic Raab admitted that they are indeed being considered in Britain – for internal and external use. When asked on LBC whether a domestic vaccine passport – ‘where you have to show a bit of paper to go into a supermarket’ – could be brought in, Raab confirmed: ‘It’s something that hasn’t been ruled out and is under consideration, but of course you’ve got to make it workable.’ The Foreign Secretary continued: ‘You’ve got to know that the document