Thursday, 21 October, 2021

England to scrap vaccine passport plan as winter looms


The decision in Westminister puts England out of step with its European neighbours. Most countries on the continent now use health passes, which ask citizens to either be vaccinated or produce evidence of a recent PCR or antibody test.

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It comes after a revolt from Conservative MPs in the House of Commons last week, with many warning that vaccine certificates were illiberal and unworkable. Johnson is keen to avoid a long-running fight with his party on the issue, just as he tries to convince them to back a controversial tax hike to fund the National Health Service.

Britain may also soon drop mandatory PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests for returning travellers who are fully vaccinated.

The night-time industry welcomed the U-turn on vaccine passports in England, with Michael Kill, the chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association trade body, saying he hoped businesses would be able to “start to rebuild a sector that has consistently been at the sharp end of this pandemic”.

The government also said it expected Britain’s Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation to confirm the details of a vaccination booster program to begin in September.

Britain, which has one of the highest official COVID-19 death tolls in the world, has seen the number of cases climb over the past few months after restrictions were eased in July.

The UK on Sunday reported 56 new deaths within 28 days of a positive COVID-19 test, as well as 29,173 new cases. The vast majority of deaths and serious hospitalisations now involve unvaccinated people.

Javid said Johnson would this week announce that some emergency measures introduced following the Coronavirus Act of 2020 would be dropped.

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These include the power to shut down a business, to shut down education settings and to require certain restrictions around people who are infectious.

“A lot of these powers can go,” the Health Minister said. “But some of them are necessary to keep, such as requiring people to self-isolate if they test positive.”

The Times earlier reported that while Johnson may drop the need for proof of vaccination for entry to nightclubs, cinemas and sports grounds, companies that choose to require a certification of vaccines would be able to continue doing so.

The opposition Labour Party said while it agreed it was a reasonable approach to take some measures off the statute book, it warned the government that winter could punish the National Health Service (NHS).

“We know that winter is going to be difficult, the NHS are fearing the worst winter in living memory, we know we’re going to have more flu, respiratory problems,” Labour’s health policy chief Jonathan Ashworth told Times Radio. “So we need to prepare our NHS for the winter.”

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