England drops plans for compulsory COVID vaccine passes for events

The passes, proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or a recent negative test, were expected to be rolled out from the end of this month at most venues and crowded events.
UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid. (Photo | AP)
UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid. (Photo | AP)

LONDON: A scheme for vaccine passports or so-called "COVID pass" for entry to nightclubs and other large events in England will not go ahead, the UK government announced on Sunday.

The passes, proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or a recent negative test, were expected to be rolled out from the end of this month at most venues and crowded events.

However, UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid has now confirmed that the plan has been axed.

"We just shouldn't be doing things for the sake of it or because others are doing, and we should look at every possible intervention properly," Javid told the BBC.

"I've never liked the idea of saying to people you must show your papers or something to do what is just an everyday activity, but we were right to properly look at it. We've looked at it properly and, whilst we should keep it in reserve as a potential option, I'm pleased to say that we will not be going ahead with plans for vaccine passports," he said.

There had been an outcry against the plans, which the entertainment industry feared would be a big blow to their post-pandemic reopening.

Scotland had recently confirmed that it will be going ahead with the vaccine passport scheme, under its devolved authority, from October 1.

Meanwhile, Javid said he is also keen to remove the PCR test requirement for travellers returning from some foreign countries "as soon as I possibly can".

"We have got a huge number of defences; of course we still want to remain very cautious, and there are some things that, when it comes to travel for example, there are some rules that are going to have to remain in place," he told "Sky News'.

"But the PCR test that is required upon your return to the UK from certain countries. I want to try and get rid of that as soon as I possibly can. I am not going to make that decision right now, but I have already asked officials that at the moment we can, let's get rid of these kind of intrusions, the costs that generates for families, particularly families just trying to go out and holiday," he said.

"We shouldn't be keeping anything like that in place for a second longer than is absolutely necessary," he added.

At present, passengers returning from green or amber list destinations, such as India, if they are fully vaccinated, must take PCR tests on or before day two after they arrive back in England.

The government last month announced the cost of National Health Service (NHS) coronavirus tests for international travel were being reduced from 88 pounds to 68 pounds each, with the sum for others reducing from 170 pounds to 136 pounds.

It has also been accompanied by a crackdown on rogue testing services that overcharge people, with a penalty of up to 10,000 pounds being brought in against companies that break the law.

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to repeal some powers of the government's emergency Coronavirus Act brought in to tackle the pandemic last year, as he sets out the government's plan for managing COVID-19 over the next few months.

The sections likely to be repealed include powers to close down the economy; powers to impose restrictions on events and gatherings; powers to temporarily close or restrict access to schools; and powers to detain infectious people.

It comes as the UK recorded 156 further coronavirus-related deaths and 29,547 new COVID-19 infections under the official daily tally on Saturday.

A further 25,019 first vaccine doses were administered in the latest 24 hours, taking the first dose total to 48,395,359 or 89 per cent of those aged 16 and above.

Some 89,832 people received their second dose, taking the total of double-jabbed people in the country to 43,895,440 (80.8 per cent of those aged 16 and above).

The government is now awaiting formal advice on the rollout of a booster third dose of a COVID vaccine for the wider population, with vulnerable groups set to receive these along with an annual flu vaccine for added protection.

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The New Indian Express