No jab, no entry: Vaccine passports are back on the agenda - and the backlash has begun

The Prime Minister slipped the policy of vaccine passports into his latest Covid briefing – it’s another major U-turn, and several questions remain unanswered

Vaccine passports will be mandatory for entry to nightclubs from the end of September, the prime minister announced (Photos: Getty)

If anything is likely to provoke a feisty political debate right now, it's the on-again, off-again topic of vaccine passports.

For some, they are the safest and easiest route back to things like major events and foreign travel any time soon.

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For others, they are a fundamental breach of human rights, because having a vaccination is of course optional.

In his briefing from isolation at Chequers last night, Boris Johnson seemed to try to slip in an announcement that vaccine passports are very much back on the agenda, and presumably hoped that no-one would notice amid all of the 'Freedom Day' talk.

“I should serve notice now that by the end of September, when all over-18s will have had their chance to be double jabbed, we are planning to make full vaccination the condition of entry to nightclubs and other venues where large crowds gather,” the PM said, somewhat reluctantly.

Alas, it didn't just go unnoticed: it dominates today's front pages, and has provoked an angry backlash from both nightclub operators and Tory backbenchers (who aren't normally ones to cut a rug at their local discotheque but are generally against anything that looks like state intervention on personal freedoms).

Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association, commented:

"So, 'Freedom Day' for nightclubs lasted around 17 hours then. The announcement from the Prime Minister that Covid passports will be made mandatory for night clubs in September comes after his Health Secretary said only one week ago that they would not be compulsory. What an absolute shambles.

"Leaving aside the fact that this is yet another chaotic U-turn that will leave nightclubs who have been planning for reopening for months having to make more changes to the way they operate - this is still a bad idea.

"80% of nightclubs have said they do not want to implement Covid passports, worrying about difficulties with enforcing the system and a reduction in spontaneous consumers, as well as being put at a competitive disadvantage with pubs and bars that aren't subject to the same restrictions and yet provide similar environments."

Another U-turn

Remember, this is from a government which previously said it had "no plans" to introduce a vaccine certification scheme, whenever the question was asked.

With cases still rocketing, it also seems nonsensical to wait until the end of September to make the change, allowing a couple of months of super-spreader events to take place while most young people are still not fully protected.

And if the plans weren't already under enough scrutiny, there's also a suspicion that, far from being a public health-minded policy, this is really part of a drive to increase jab uptake among younger people, with 35% of 18-30 year olds yet to have their first vaccination.

Even if you're double-vaccinated you can still catch and pass on the virus, so dropping a negative Covid test in favour of a vaccine passport doesn't really seem to stack up.

All in all, it's the latest U-turn from a Government that seems to be stuck on a spaghetti junction of policy twists and turns, so whatever happens, expect more to change before the autumn.

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