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Vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi has defended government plans to introduce vaccine passports to large venues by the end of the month, stating the Delta variant of Covid-19 has “changed things”.
Zahawi told LBC’s Nick Ferrari this morning that checking vaccination status is the “right thing to do” to ensure businesses can remain open and to avoid a fourth national lockdown.
Contradicting statements made in February that introducing vaccine passports would be “discriminatory”, the minister argued that the high contagion levels of the Delta variant have changed the public health landscape.
“I was asked this question in Parliament yesterday, people were saying ‘why did you say in January or February that you had no plans to have vaccine passports and now you’ve changed your mind?'” the minister said.
“I say that the difference is… the delta variant, which is far more infectious than its previous incarnations,” he responded.
“By the end of September all 18 year olds will have had a chance to be double vaxinated, then we are absolutely looking at using vaccine certification as a way of reducing… the risk of superspreader events where large numbers of people congregate in indoor spaces. The worst thing that can happen is that these clubs need to be shut down again.”
The government supported several pilot events in April and May this year to explore whether checking Covid status could be used to prevent outbreaks.
Attendees of the events — which included the FA Cup final and the World Snooker Championship — were required to show a negative Covid test or proof of full vaccination.
But Zahawi confirmed on Sunday that producing a negative test result will soon no longer be enough to gain access to stadiums, nightclubs and other large venues.
Zahawi also dismissed a report in the i today claiming that contingency plans have been drawn up for a firebreak lockdown next month, should coronavirus cases continue rising and threaten to overload the NHS.
According to the newspaper, a source from the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) said: “This is essentially the precautionary break that Sage suggested last year,” said the Sage source. It would be sensible to have contingency plans, and if a lockdown is required, to time it so that it has minimal economic and societal impact.”
Responding to the report, Zahawi said he hasn’t seen any plans for an October lockdown.
“I think the really important thing to say is that it is the booster programme that will allow us to protect the most vulnerable”, the minister told LBC.
“We will probably break the records that we set in the first phase of the vaccination programme because we’ll be boosting probably around 35 million people,” he continued.
“Public Health England’s data has shown that we’ve saved 100,000, over 20 million infections and many people have not had to go to hospital. That’s how we continue on a one way street of keeping the economy open without having to regress into other non-pharmaceutical interventions.”
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