As the UK continues to cast its eye forward to a potential way out of lockdown, conversations between the government, health advisors and business leaders are starting to yield ideas about the quickest, fairest and most efficient ways for us to get back to normal.
One idea that keeps doing the rounds, and is proving particularly controversial, is the concept of ‘vaccine passports’. Essentially, these would be certificates that would be given to everyone who’s had both doses of the vaccine. With pubs and nightclubs banking on reopening on June 21, many are becoming concerned that the passport idea won’t be executed fairly. As some have pointed out, because younger people who typically staff pubs and clubs are at the back of the vaccine queue, it’s going to be a logistical nightmare.
Others, such as Conservative MP William Wragg, who raised the issue at Wednesday’s House of Commons Liaison Committee hearing, have suggested the idea of presenting a certificate to enter a pub or nightclub was not “compatible with a free society such as ours”.
However, Prime Minister Boris Johnson responded that it was “the kind of thing that may be up to individual publicans,” later adding, “I find myself in this long national conversation thinking very deeply about it,” adding that the public “want me as prime minister to take all the action I can to protect them”. Meanwhile at the same hearing, senior Tory backbencher Mr Baker denounced the idea altogether, saying: “First they said we’ll need them to watch the football, and today that it may be papers for the pub.”
Mr Baker also added, slightly more sensibly, that it would negatively impact pregnant women, preventing them from “taking part in society”. Baker then added that vaccine passports would also negatively impact customers “from communities which have shown an unfortunate hesitancy to take up the offer of a vaccine,” making it possible for businesses to refuse them service. “We must not fall into this ghastly trap,” he said.
Although Downing Street has since released an official statement saying that pregnant women have not been explicity advised not to take the vaccine, there are lot of issues with the plan that have yet to be worked out.
Downing Street later pointed out that pregnant women are not specifically being advised to avoid having a Covid vaccination, but to discuss it with their GP.
Kate Nicholls, the chief executive of UK Hospitality, said the sector should not be “subject to mandatory vaccination certification”.
“It is simply unworkable, would cause conflict between staff and customers and almost certainty result in breaches of equality rules,” she added.