COVID-19: Vaccine passports will be introduced at big venues to avoid winter closures, minister says | Politics News

COVID-19: Vaccine passports will be introduced at big venues to avoid winter closures, minister says | Politics News

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No decision has been made on whether to offer coronavirus jabs to all 12 to 15-year-olds, the vaccines minister has told Sky News.

Speaking to Trevor Phillips On Sunday, Nadhim Zahawi said parents of children in this age group will need to give their consent if a rollout takes place.

He also confirmed that COVID-19 vaccine passports will be introduced for large venues – and it is hoped this will prevent further closures this winter.

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Guests applaud at the end of a performance of the West End show 'The Show Must Go On' at the Palace Theatre,
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The minister stressed the need to ensure venues can open safely in the long term

His comments came after the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) decided against backing the vaccination of youngsters on health grounds alone, given coronavirus presents such a low risk to them.

The UK’s chief medical officers are currently reviewing the wider benefits of the move, such as reducing school absences.

On the issue of whether healthy 12 to 15-year-olds should be offered a vaccine, Mr Zahawi said: “We have not made any decisions, so we haven’t decided not to listen to the experts.

“On the contrary, all four ministers, the secretary of state Sajid Javid and his fellow ministers in the devolved administrations have agreed to ask the chief medical officers to convene expert groups, including the JCVI being in that, to be able to recommend which way we should go.”

But pressed over whether parental consent would be sought if approval was given, Mr Zahawi said: “I can give that assurance, absolutely.”

The minister also said checking people’s vaccine status is the “right thing to do” to ensure the whole economy remains open.

FILE IMAGE - Mar 8, 2021 - Students arrive at Outwood Academy in Woodlands, Doncaster in Yorkshire
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Medical chiefs are reviewing the wider benefits of child jabs, such as reducing school absences

Asked if he has made up his mind about vaccine passports, Mr Zahawi said: “We are looking at, by the end of September when everyone has had the opportunity to be fully vaccinated, for the large venues, venues that could end up causing a real spike in infections, where we need to use the certification process.

“If you look at what the FA (Football Association) have done, they’ve done so brilliantly in terms of checking vaccine status to reopen football.

“That is the sort of right thing to do and we are absolutely on track to continue to make sure that we do that.

“There’s a reason for that… the reason being is that, I, as does the prime minister, want to make sure the whole economy remains open.

“The worst thing we can do for those venues is to have a sort of open-shut-open-shut strategy because we see infection rates rise because of the close interaction of people, that’s how the virus spreads, if people are in close spaces in large numbers we see spikes appearing.

Analysis by Sam Coates, deputy political editor

What was interesting is before the summer there were pretty broad hints to Conservative MPs that if the uptake of the vaccine, particularly amongst young people, was high by this point then maybe there wasn’t going to be a need to implement vaccine passports.

Vaccine passports are disliked by many in the Conservative Party, particularly by the Coronavirus Recovery Group led by Steve Baker and Mark Harper, who are sceptical at the need to be showing papers, as they would see it, to get into many different venues.

Bluntly, there are concerns about the level of uptake of the vaccine in the 20s, 30s, and people in their 40s as well, where quite high percentages have not been double jabbed.

So the government appears to be pressing ahead, Downing Street was confirming it this week, and Nadhim Zahawi today, that we are going to get these vaccine passports.

Football stadiums were one of the things he highlighted today, nightclubs, of course, was the one Boris Johnson talked about originally when it comes to vaccine passports.

I think that is a pretty clear signal of Boris Johnson’s determination to press ahead on this despite the unpopularity.

Talking to officials, it’s quite clear that vaccine passports have gone right up the agenda when it comes to trying to prevent another lockdown.

I think the government is extremely explicit we can’t have one, Boris Johnson spent most of the year promising that would never happen, but now the language seems slightly weaker on that.

But a combination of boosters, both for the over 60s and probably vaccines for 12 to 15-year-olds, if the review by the chief medical officers goes the right way, and vaccine passports, is the answer that ministers have for topping another set of shutdowns.

Of course, they haven’t taken anything off the table, including a potentially localised shutdown of school but I think there will be a very big political price to pay in the event that he did actually have to close bits of the economy or bits of the schooling sector once again.

“The best thing to do then is to work with the industry to make sure that they can open safely and sustainably in the long term, and the best way to do that is to check vaccine status.”

Mr Zahawi said he would do “everything in my power” to avoid another lockdown and was focused on making sure the booster programme is delivered.

He added: “Nobody enjoys, by the way, in this government, certainly not this prime minister, having restrictions on people’s freedoms.

“It goes against the DNA of this government to do that.”

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Sasha Terry

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