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COVID-19: Extension to use of vaccine passports will be looked at if there is a ‘public health need’, Oliver Dowden says

Written by on 10 September 2021

The government will look at extending the use of vaccine passports if there is a “public health need” to do so, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has said.

Mr Dowden told Sky News the government “want as few restrictions for as short a period as possible”, but that if the situation with coronavirus worsens, ministers will consider requiring vaccine certification to attend more venues to “protect” the public.

The culture secretary did, however, emphasise that the government is “always reluctant to impose further burdens on businesses unless we really have to”.

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The NHS app will be used by people in England to prove their coronavirus status to other countries Image: Last week, Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi confirmed to Sky News vaccine passports are going to be introduced at big venues in England to avoid winter closures

It comes a day after Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that vaccine passports will be introduced in Scotland for entry into venues with large crowds from 1 October.

COVID-19 certification will be required to enter events such as nightclubs, music festivals and some football grounds, Ms Sturgeon said.

MSPs in Holyrood voted by 68 to 55 in favour of the measure which will be introduced from 1 October after all Scottish adults have had the opportunity to receive both COVID-19 vaccines, with two weeks having passed to allow the vaccine to take effect.

Asked whether the UK will be implementing the same measure, Mr Dowden told Sky News: “Well my overall approach to certification – and the prime minister’s and the rest of the government’s – is, in relation to any restrictions, we want as few restrictions for as short a period as possible.

“But if we need them to protect public health, we will.

“That is why we have said in relation to very high-risk venues – and a nightclub is an example of that, you have got lots of people mingling very closely to each other, often poor ventilation – we will be looking at bringing in certification for the nightclubs towards the end of the month.”

Vaccine passports for football games Image: Vaccine passports could soon be required to attend football matches

Mr Dowden added that the government “continue to engage with other sporting and culture venues”, adding: “If there is a need to further extend that certification according to the public health need we will look at doing so.

“But we are always reluctant to impose further burdens on businesses unless we really have to.”

On Thursday, the Scottish government said there are currently no plans to introduce certification for the wider hospitality industry, but that this will be kept under review over the autumn and winter.

Scotland’s Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said he hopes the scheme will incentivise as many people as possible to get vaccinated, especially in the younger age cohort.

Mr Dowden emphasised that in England, the measure would only be brought in for “high-risk venues”.

Last week, Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi confirmed to Sky News vaccine passports are going to be introduced at big venues in England to avoid winter closures.

Speaking to Trevor Phillips on Sunday, Mr Zahawi said the government wanted to avoid a situation where businesses continually had to open and close their doors at short notice.

Members of the public walks past a still closed sign outside Argos in Leicester city centre in Leicester, England, Tuesday June 30, 2020. The British government has reimposed lockdown restrictions in the English city of Leicester after a spike in coronavirus infections, including the closure of shops that don...t sell essential goods and schools. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira) Image: Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi told Sky News last week that he will do ‘everything in my power’ to avoid another lockdown

Asked whether vaccine passports would be introduced in England, the vaccines minister said: “We are looking at, by the end of September when everyone has had the opportunity to be fully vaccinated, for the large venues, venues that could end up causing a real spike in infections, where we need to use the certification process.”

He added: “The worst thing we can do for those venues is to have a sort of open-shut-open-shut strategy because we see infection rates rise because of the close interaction of people, that’s how the virus spreads, if people are in close spaces in large numbers we see spikes appearing.”

Mr Zahawi also vowed to do “everything in my power” to avoid another lockdown.

But not everyone is keen on vaccine passports being introduced domestically.

Lib Dem leader Ed Davey Image: Lib Dem leader Ed Davey said in July that the use of a domestic vaccine passport scheme would be ‘a grotesque misuse of government diktat’

In July, the Liberal Democrats campaigned for parliament to be recalled to discuss the government’s “botched” and “deceitful” plan.

The party’s leader Sir Ed Davey said the use of such a scheme would be “a grotesque misuse of government diktat” and called for MPs to have a vote on the matter.

A number of Conservative MPs have previously told Sky News they do not think the government will follow through and actually introduce domestic vaccine passports.