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England scraps vaccine passports, readies for booster shots

The UK may also soon drop mandatory PCR tests for returning travelers who are fully vaccinated. 
Boris Johnson, UK prime minister. Image: Chris Ratcliffe, Bloomberg

Boris Johnson will unveil the U.K.’s new approach in tackling Covid this week, preparing the country for a mass booster vaccination program and potential shots for teenagers — but scrapping plans for mandatory vaccine certificates in England.

The prime minister is expected to hold a press conference Tuesday outlining how a beefed-up inoculation program will try to keep the virus under control over the high-risk period of autumn and winter.

“The prime minister will be setting out tomorrow a lot more of the detail of the roadmap ahead, preparing for winter,” Cabinet minister Therese Coffey told Sky News on Monday.

Even as cases remain high in Britain, Johnson wants to mark a new stage in the pandemic — ditching the threat of lockdowns and mandatory vaccine passports in favour of more individual freedoms.

It comes after a revolt from his own Conservative MPs in the House of Commons last week, with many warning that vaccine certificates were illiberal and unworkable. The premier 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.

The U.K. may also soon drop mandatory PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests for returning travelers who are fully vaccinated.

“I want to take that away as soon as I can, but it must be based on the public health advice,” Health Secretary Sajid Javid told the BBC on Sunday.

Vaccine credentials
Johnson’s government had long floated the idea of vaccine certificates, announcing in July that nightclubs and other large, crowded venues in England would be forced to demand proof that people had been double-vaccinated or tested negative for Covid.

But Javid confirmed these plans had been abandoned for now, telling the BBC: “I’ve never liked the idea of saying to people, ‘You must show your papers.’” The policy will instead be kept “in reserve” if there is a spike in cases.

The move was widely welcomed by industry groups including the Music Venue Trust, which said the policy had a “number of challenges around deliverability, practicality, equality and potential discrimination.”

The decision puts England at odds with Scotland, where plans were approved by lawmakers last week to require people to show proof of vaccination before entering nightclubs and large events from Oct. 1.

Winter wave
Some 29,173 new Covid cases were reported in the U.K. on Sunday, along with 56 deaths. Scientists fear cases will rise in England in the coming weeks, as schools fully reopen and more people go back to work. A surge would be exacerbated by the colder weather, as people spend more time indoors and respiratory illnesses spread more easily.

Javid said he was “confident” that booster shots for older and vulnerable people would be rolled out this month, and he was awaiting final advice on the matter from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization.

He is also waiting for the U.K.’s chief medical officers to decide on whether 12 to 15 year-olds should be vaccinated, and if they approve: “We will be able to start within a week.”

Javid said he wasn’t expecting any further lockdowns. “It will be irresponsible for any health minister around the world to take everything off the table, but I just don’t see how we get to another lockdown,” he said.

© 2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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Finally a world leader that understands that a vaccine passport is “illiberal and unworkable”. Let’s hope that others wake up soon. With our own “policy makers” just cutting and pasting from other’s playbooks, perhaps they too will reconsider this foolish notion.

End of comments.

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