Plans to introduce vaccine passports in England for nightclubs and other crowded venues have been scrapped in the latest of the Government’s coronavirus U-turns.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid confirmed the proposals “will not be going ahead” on Sunday, just days after ministers had defended the policy to sceptical MPs.
Boris Johnson had previously announced that members of the public would be required to show proof they have had two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine in order to gain entry to clubs and other large-scale events in England.
But following a backlash from Tory MPs, the Health Secretary said the idea had been shelved.
He told the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show: “I’ve never liked the idea of saying to people you must show your papers or something to do what is just an everyday activity, but we were right to properly look at it.
“We’ve looked at it properly and whilst we should keep it in reserve as a potential option, I’m pleased to say that we will not be going ahead with plans for vaccine passports.”
The announcement came shortly after the minister had appeared on Sky News and told host Trevor Phillips a final decision had yet to be made.
He said: “We haven’t made a final decision as a Government.”
Labour’s deputy leader said the rapid change showed that “the Government’s approach to Covid passports has been shambolic from the start”.
Angela Rayner said: “There has never been any clarity from ministers about what vaccine passports were supposed to achieve, how they would work and what was expected from businesses and workers.
“Days ago, the vaccine minister stood before Parliament to confirm the introduction of Covid passports and stress their importance, now they’ve been scrapped.
“This is the culmination of a summer of chaos from ministers and they urgently need to get a grip before winter.”
But Mr Javid told Times Radio the decision was not a “wobble” based on fears that MPs may not have backed the Government.
He said: “It’s not a wobble. We said we were going to look at this and look at it carefully and we set out what those plans were and the sectors that we were looking at.
“But I think everyone agrees if you went ahead with something like vaccine passports, they are a huge intrusion into people’s lives so you’ve got to be really, really certain, That’s what you want to do. We have looked at it and whilst we keep it in reserve, I’m pleased to say that we will not be going ahead.”
The hospitality sector welcomed the news.
Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA), said: “We hope that businesses will now be able to plan for the future with some degree of certainty, regain confidence from customers and the workforce, and start to rebuild a sector that has consistently been at the sharp end of this pandemic.”
While Sacha Lord, night time economy adviser for Greater Manchester and co-founder of Parklife Festival, said the idea had been “untenable and illogical”.
He said: “The plans were untenable and illogical and there were multiple factors which would have been discriminatory and legally questionable.
“As a sector, we can now move forward, without hesitation or vague regulations.”
Vaccine passports had caused growing disquiet among Tory ranks, as well as facing opposition from opposition parties and industry figures.
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi faced a fierce backlash when he defended the policy in the Commons on Wednesday, with Tory MPs accusing the Government of picking an “unnecessary fight” with them.
The decision means Covid measures in England again deviate from those in Scotland, where a motion on their introduction was passed in the Scottish Parliament on Thursday, while a decision is expected in Wales next week.
Stormont ministers have yet to reach an official position on using vaccine access passports within Northern Ireland.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said on Sunday that a “very targeted and limited system of vaccine certification… can help us reduce transmission in some higher-risk settings”.
Mr Javid also said he wanted to remove the need for PCR tests for travel “as soon as I possibly can”.
But asked whether ministers were removing too many measures designed to keep the public safe, he said the Government should not be introducing coronavirus measures “just for the sake of it”.
He told The Andrew Marr Show: “There’s a lot of defences, we’ve just gone through some of them, that we need to keep in place, because this virus hasn’t gone anywhere.
“There’s still a pandemic so of course we need to remain cautious. But we just shouldn’t be doing things for the sake of it or because others are doing, and we should look at every possible intervention properly.”