Tory MPs furious over Boris Johnson plan for ‘Beijing-style’ Covid passports in universities
Tory backbenchers accused ministers of trying to turn Britain into a ‘Beijing-style democracy’ today amid a row over compulsory vaccine passports for universities.
Boris Johnson is said to be ‘raging’ about the relatively low uptake of Covid jabs in young people, and had suggested the move to drive up the rates.
It would see students only allowed back on campus in September if they can prove they have been double-jabbed.
But Tory MP Tom Tugendhat railed against the scheme today saying it would lead to yet another form of ID card.
The chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee told TalkRadio: ‘We need to be extremely careful that we don’t go from a Brussels-type democracy to a Beijing-type democracy.’
Other Conservative MPs branded the scheme as ‘wrongheaded’ and said it risked turning Britain into a two-tier society.
And the University and College Union — which represents universities — said it was ‘hugely discriminatory’ against foreign students and those who won’t be able to get jabbed.
Covid cases are now concentrated mostly in younger age groups who are less likely to get the vaccine because they do not see the virus as a threat.
Official figures show adults in their early twenties in England were 12 times more likely to be infected with Covid than the over-60s last week.
And they were 20 times more likely to have suffered an infection than the over-80s.
It comes after the minister for children and families Vicky Ford repeatedly refused to rule out the plans during a round of interviews today.
The Prime Minister has already said clubbers will need to be double-vaccinated from September to attend the late night venues.
Data from the Government’s dashboard showed 18 to 24 year olds made up 14 per cent of cases on July 17. This was the lions’ share and 12 times more than in the over-60s
Tory backbencher Tom Tugendhat (left) said the plan risked turning Britain into a ‘Beijing-style democracy’. And the chair of the education select committee Robert Halfon said the plan was ‘wrongheaded’
Speaking on Sky News this morning, children’s minister Vicky Ford refused to rule out students being required to have both doses of a Covid vaccine to get back to university this autumn
The chairman of the Covid Recovery Group of Tory MPs Mark Harper said today the plans for vaccine passports in universities amounted to ‘compulsory vaccination’.
He urged ministers to return to ‘persuasion not panic’ to roll-out the jabs, saying it was the ‘right public health approach’.
And the chairman of the Commons education select committee Robert Halfon called the plans ‘wrongheaded’.
Mr Halfon told The Times: ‘It’s something out of Huxley’s Brave New World where people with vaccine passports will be engineered into social hierarchies — those who will be given higher education or those who will not.’
Youngsters ditch face masks in droves, poll finds
A new poll by YouGov suggests the use of face masks among young people has slumped since ‘freedom day’ on July 19.
The survey found 46 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds said they wore a face mask in a public place in the last two weeks, compared to 58 per cent on July 16 and 64 per cent on June 2.
Meanwhile, the survey of 1,742 British adults between July 21 and 22 found other age groups were still wearing face coverings at around the same rate.
Data shows 69 per cent of all Britons say they wore a face mask in the last two weeks, compared to 71 per cent on July 16 and 73 per cent on June 2.
YouGov also said young people were less likely to be fully vaccinated and more likely to have disabled their NHS Covid-19 app.
The researcher said that while last week 38 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds had been avoiding crowded places, this has now fallen to 26 per cent.
Older generations showed little to no change in their behaviour towards crowded spaces.
Meanwhile, the proportion of Britons thinking the Government is handling Covid-19 well fell from 41 per cent just before ‘freedom day’ to 34 per cent afterwards.
Attitudes among Conservative voters tumbled 17pts this week. Prior to July 19, about three-quarters (73 per cent) of Conservative voters thought the Government was doing a good job of managing the pandemic response.
The UCU called the plans ‘highly discriminatory’. Its general secretary Jo Grady said the scheme aimed to blame students for poor vaccine uptake in young people.
‘Sadly, this looks and smells like a Prime Minister trying to pin the blame on students for not yet taking up a vaccine they have not been prioritised to receive’.
She called on Mr Johnson to instead work with universities to boost uptake among young people.
Labour also attacked the plans today, with leader Sir Keir Starmer warning: ‘I just to be very clear about this, I don’t want to see vaccine passports used on an everyday basis.’ Deputy leader Angela Rayner described the plans as ‘unworkable’.
Ms Ford refused to rule out the plans today, telling BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘So obviously, I can’t comment on things that haven’t been announced.
‘But one does need to look at every practicality to make sure that we can get students back safely and make sure that we can continue to prioritise education.’
Mr Johnson’s officials spokesman also refused to rule out the radical policy.
He said: ‘You have heard what the PM has said before, specifically that the pandemic is not over and as he said last week we are still looking at the scope for vaccination certification and as we said last week I am not going to go into individual sectors or settings.
‘We obviously reserve the right to protect the public and reduce transmission which is why as I say we are still looking at the scope of the vaccine certification.’
If given the go-ahead, the policy would mark another chaotic U-turn from Mr Johnson, who previously promised vaccine passports would only be enforced for foreign travel.
The Prime Minister sparked fury last week when he announced the documents will be a legal condition of entry for nightclubs.
Mr Johnson is said to be ‘raging’ about the low numbers of young people coming forward to get the jab and hopes the move pressures them to come forward, according to The Times.
The latest NHS England figures show just 58.6 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds have had one Covid injection, compared to rates of above 90 per cent in most older age groups.
At the same time, the virus is sweeping through younger age groups, with case rates among those in their 20s higher than any age group since the pandemic began.
Around three million 18 to 29 year olds are still yet to be vaccinated, even though they have been eligible for more than five weeks.
Latest Department of Health data shows adults in their early twenties in England are most likely to be infected with Covid after one in 78 tested positive for the virus over the week to July 17, the latest available (Or 1,276 cases per 100,000 people in the group).
Schoolchildren aged 15 to 19 were the second most likely to have the virus after one in 79 tested positive (1,253 per 100,000), followed by 25 to 29 year olds at one in 91 (1,093 per 100,000).
On the other hand, 85 to 89 year olds were least likely to be infected after one in 1,666 tested positive for the virus last week (60 per 100,000).
They were followed by adults in their early 80s at one in 1,587 (63 per 100,000) and the over-90s at one in 1,562 (64 per 100,000).
Older adults are most at risk of serious disease, hospitalisation and death if they catch the virus, which has led to many preferring to stay at home and only meeting in small groups to avoid becoming infected.
But younger people generally do not see the virus as a threat. Because of this they are also less likely to get vaccinated against the virus — which cuts the risk of infection — than those in older age groups.
Latest NHS England figures show just 58.6 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds have had one Covid injection, compared to rates of above 90 per cent in most older age groups
Double-jabbed British expats ‘will be able to return to the UK to visit family quarantine-free from August 1’
British expats who have received both doses of a coronavirus vaccine will be able to visit family in the UK without having to quarantine from next month, it was claimed today.
The UK Government will formally recognise jabs administered overseas from August 1, according to The Telegraph.
That means that Brits living abroad who are fully vaccinated will be able to avoid a 10 day stay in self-isolation when returning from an amber list country.
The Government currently only recognises NHS administered vaccinations when it comes to international travel rules.
As a result, British expats who live in amber list nations have faced the barrier of quarantine even when they have had both doses.
Ministers are now reportedly planning to change the rules to allow Brits to register a foreign jab with their GP.
That should pave the way for double-jabbed people to be able to visit the country without having to self-isolate.
It is also thought that quarantine-free travel to the UK for double-jabbed foreign nationals could be opened up ‘very soon’ as the Government continues to seek reciprocal deals with countries which agree to recognise the NHS vaccine app.
The current amber list travel rules state that Brits who are ‘fully vaccinated under the UK vaccination programme’ do not have to self-isolate when they return.
However, people who are not ‘fully UK vaccinated’ do still have to quarantine for 10 days.
It comes as a poll published today suggested younger people are ditching face masks in droves after ‘Freedom Day’.
The survey found 54 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds said they did not wear a face mask in a public place for the last two weeks.
For comparison, 42 per cent said they ignored the requirement over the fortnight to July 16, and only 36 per cent in the two weeks to June 2.
But separate surveys suggest older adults are still choosing to wear the coverings for fear of catching the virus.
A survey of 1,742 British adults days two days after Freedom Day found other age groups were still wearing the masks at about the same rate.
Ms Ford did not deny that the Government was considering making vaccine passports compulsory in universities.
She told Sky News this morning: ‘What we’ve always done throughout this pandemic is prioritised access to university.
‘And one of the things that we really want to do is encourage young people to get that double vaccination is the way that you’ll minimise disruption to your own university career.
‘And I will certainly be encouraging both of my student sons to have their second vaccination before they go back to university to become a requirement.
‘We must make sure that we continue to prioritise education and if they want to be able to avoid the self-isolation such as we have said for other adults, the double-vaccinated adults by August the 16th if you have not got a positive test, if you don’t have symptoms, you won’t need to self-isolate.
‘So, for students who are returning to university that’s really important.’
Mr Johnson suggested last week all students — apart from those with medical conditions that stop them getting jabbed — should be forced to get vaccinated.
He made the comments in virtual meetings with colleagues, while he was self-isolating in Chequers after coming into close contact with Health Secretary Sajid Javid who tested positive for the virus, according to The Times.
The Prime Minister announced last week that night clubs will bar people from their venues from September if they have not been double jabbed, as well as from ‘other venues where large crowds gather’.
Compulsory vaccinations will come into force later in the year for people who work in care homes.
The Government is also in talks with the Premier League about only letting double-jabbed fans into stadiums.