Health Minister denies that the Government ‘changed its mind’ about use of vaccine passports

The idea of vaccine passports has proved controversial, but the concept is now set to be tested during upcoming pilot events

Health Minister Edward Argar has denied that the Government has changed its mind about the use of vaccine passports, despite the fact that Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi previously called them “discriminatory”.

Vaccine passports are set to be tested during upcoming pilot events - the first of which will be a comedy show held in Liverpool on 16 April.

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U-turn on vaccine passports?

The UK is set to trial the concept of vaccine passports (Photo: Hugh Hastings/Getty Images)

While on BBC Breakfast, Argar was asked whether the Government had changed its mind on vaccine passports, to which Argar denied.

He said: “I don’t think it is that at all.

“What we are seeing here is that there are a number of things we’ve had to do as a country and individuals over the past year that I don’t think any of us would choose to do or want to do but the nature of this disease has meant we’ve had to do some fairly unpalatable things that we would not have chosen to do.

“And in this context, and I don’t want to pre-empty the review that [Cabinet Office Minister] Michael Gove is undertaking, but he has been clear that if you look at, for example, other countries like Israel, which have had a high level of vaccination and are beginning to see how they can open up their economy and country faster - I think they had something called ‘green passes’ - I think it is right that we look at this and see if there is a way that, while balancing all those practical, ethical and fairness considerations, is there a way this could, in the short term, speed-up our reopening of the country and getting back to doing the things we love?

“I don’t think anyone would wish to do it, but I think it is right that it is looked at as: “Can this help us go a little bit faster and get our country back to normal”?”

Vaccine passports are ‘discriminatory’

Earlier this year in February, Vaccine Minister Nadhim Zahawi told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that vaccine passports would be “discriminatory”.

Since then, more than 70 MPs, including 40 Conservatives, have launched a campaign in opposition to vaccine passports in England, claiming that they would be “divise and discriminatory”.

The pledge, which was signed by former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, alongside other prominent political figures, including Conservative former leader Sir Iain Duncan-Smith and ex-Lib Dem leader Tim Farron, warns against bringing in the scheme.

Vaccine legislation ‘a nightmare’

Speaking to Times Radio, Professor of Immunology at Imperial College, Danny Altmann, said that legislating for vaccine passports would be “a nightmare”.

He explained that while in general the passports would be a good thing if they made people feel a bit safer, and more people would get vaccination, but that they needed “enormous scrutiny”.

When asked if vaccination passports will require new laws which could prove difficult to phrase correctly, Altmann said: “I think the detail is an absolute nightmare and, without being pedantic, requires enormous scrutiny.”