Guardian News and Media/London
The government is using the threat of domestic vaccine passports to coax and cajole people into getting fully vaccinated, the foreign secretary has admitted.
Dominic Raab said ministers did not want to “hold the country back” just because some individuals were not coming forward to get inoculated, confirming publicly what many suspected about Boris Johnson’s sudden decision to throw his weight behind certification for nightclubs.
In a U-turn last week, the prime minister announced that documentation would be compulsory for those gathering in crowded indoor venues across England from the end of September.
Nor did Johnson and Raab rule out university students needing to be fully vaccinated to live in halls of residence, and the Cabinet Office minister, Michael Gove, recently suggested it may be a requirement for fans at Premier League matches next season.
Chelsea FC has already said it will require people attending matches at Stamford Bridge to provide proof of being fully vaccinated.
Raab said he had seen first-hand in France that when people were told they would need domestic vaccine passports to access certain venues and events there was a “big surge” in people coming forward for their jabs.
“It is a little bit of coaxing and cajoling,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
He said the government was also “making clear” that if cases rise in September “we can control that with backstop, safeguard measures”.
Raab again hinted publicly at what several MPs have suspected, that vaccine passports may never come to pass, stressing that they could be made redundant if people got fully vaccinated.
The government’s overriding focus was on increasing take-up, he said.“Once we’ve done that, the wider questions of vaccine certification become much less relevant and salient.”
Decisions would not be taken until September, he said, but he insisted ministers would make sure students had advanced warning if they were going to need to be fully vaccinated.
Given that most university terms start in around eight weeks – the current gap between first and second doses – any later notice is unlikely to give students enough time to make sure they meet all of the health requirements demanded of them before term starts.
“The only steps that we will take are ones that will maximise the freedom that the vast majority of the country want and are hankering to enjoy,” Raab said. “We’ve got to think of it with that in mind, the overwhelming good of the country, and encourage people to close that margin.”
He denied the UK was headed in a direction similar to France of requiring proof of vaccination to allow people to gain entry to cinemas and restaurants.
Pressure on people to get vaccinated has increased significantly this week, with Gove saying those who refuse to get vaccinated are selfish.
He said certification was “the right way to go” for some venues so “people can be confident that those who are attending those events are less likely to be carriers of the virus”.
He also said that if businesses required a certain level of safety from customers, then people who remained unvaccinated by choice should not be surprised if they were barred, accusing them of “putting other people’s health and lives at risk”.
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