Professor Stephen Reicher said passports wouldn’t be needed if everyone was jabbed
Green-lighting domestic Covid vaccine passports would be an admission by ministers that the jab rollout is destined to fail, a Government scientist warned today.
Professor Stephen Reicher, a top social psychologist who sits on SAGE, said forcing people to produce jab certificates to enjoy their freedoms would only make sense if not enough people were being jabbed.
But uptake of the vaccines has already exceeded the Government’s most ambitious expectations, with more than 90 per cent of people over-50 accepting their invitation. The rollout is going so well it has already moved down to over-40s ahead of schedule.
The St Andrew’s University expert told a hearing of the All Party Parliamentary Group on coronavirus today that the Government would be ‘setting itself up for failure’ if it went down the domestic vaccine path.
He told MPs: ‘It would be an acknowledgement that we aren’t getting enough people vaccinated.’
‘Logically, you don’t need a vaccine passport if everyone is vaccinated. You need a vaccine passport only when there is limited uptake.’
Professor Reicher warned that a really strict jab certification regime could undermine the immunisation programme and lead to more people refusing a jab.
He said would make voluntary jabs mandatory by proxy and create resentment and anger among the public.
Professor Reicher warned that compelling people would lead to a significant number turning it down out of protest.
‘There is a very traditional, well-known psychological process called reactance: that if you take away people’s autonomy.
‘If you force them to do something, they will reassert their autonomy, even if that means not doing things that they would otherwise want to do.
‘Making something compulsory, or at least doing something which leaves the perception of compulsion can actually undermine activities which otherwise people would do and might even want to do.’
Boris Johnson promised that the vaccine programme alone would be the country’s ticket to freedom and insisted the Government was committed to avoiding a compulsory system.
Covid vaccine passports have already been confirmed for when foreign travel resumes on May 17 but exactly how they’ll be deployed domestically remains unknown.
The PM has ruled out using them for going to the pub or supermarket but the Government is currently trialling a similar system for larger events such as concerts, sports matches and club nights.
Under that system, people are allowed in so long as they can prove some form of Covid immunity – either by a recent negative test, proof that they’ve previously had and recovered from the virus or evidence of vaccination.
MPS, PUBS AND RESTAURANTS URGE PM TO SPEED UP END OF RESTRICTIONS
MPs, businesses and pubs and restaurants are calling for lockdown to end sooner after just one Covid death was recorded yesterday.
Even ‘Professor Lockdown’ is now optimistic that vaccines will squash the UK’s third wave of coronavirus and life in Britain will ‘feel a lot more normal by the summer’.
Neil Ferguson, the SAGE adviser and Imperial College London epidemiologist whose grim death toll predictions led Britain into its first lockdown last year, said today that he expects the vaccine rollout to help keep the UK out of lockdown for good.
His comments will be seized upon by the Tory MPs calling for England’s ultra-cautious roadmap to normality to be sped up. The PM has so far refused to budge in the face of calls for more freedom, with restrictions set to stay in place until June 21 — touted as England’s independence day.
Sir Robert Syms, Tory MP for Poole in Dorset, yesterday said: ‘We need to push the Government to get on with it. A lot of normal life could be returned’. He said the country would ‘lose another summer’ if rules aren’t eased soon.
Desperate business owners called ministers to move quicker, with one restaurant boss claiming reservations have been cancelled because of the ‘terrible weather’. Hospitality chiefs said it was essential that trading goes back to being ‘unrestricted’ on June 21.
The next lockdown relaxation is due in less than two weeks’ time on Monday, May 17, when people will be allowed to meet in large groups outdoors and small groups indoors. Foreign holidays are also planned to be given the go ahead at the same time.
More than 34million Britons have now received at least one dose of the Covid vaccine, according to the latest NHS figures, and 15.6m have been fully jabbed.
Vaccine uptake has generally been high across the country, but there are concerns about jab-scepticism in BAME communities, linked to historic inequalities, and among younger people, who see themselves as less at risk from the virus.
Professor Reicher added: ‘In contemporary evidence on people who have doubts and are hesitant about getting vaccinated, the sense is that this can lead to people becoming more alienated.
‘To reopen our society, the critical thing is to increase community engagement.
‘But if a particular vaccine passport creates alienation and undermines take up it is counter-productive, and limits our ability to make people safe and limits our ability to reopen society.’
He added: ‘If the suggestion that a vaccine passport reduces the proportion of people who are willing to get vaccinated holds true, the passport becomes counter-productive.’
During the committee, he also warned that the UK couldn’t afford to be complacent when it reopens its borders for travel.
Professor Reicher said there were 6m infections worldwide last week, as many as in the first five months of last year.
Britain made up a tiny fraction of the latest figures, recording only 14,000 cases last week. There were more than 100,000 a day in the darkest days of January.
‘We were a bit complacent when we saw it in China, when we saw it in Italy, and then it came here – so we can’t afford to be complacent again,’ he added.
‘We shouldn’t make the same mistake as people have elsewhere, where there is high vaccination in countries such as Chile.
‘Let’s not forget that two months ago the Prime Minister of India was saying “we are on top of the pandemic”.
‘If you are complacent, it can come back and bite you.’
Boris Johnson is set to re-permit foreign holidays in less than two weeks, and unveil a ‘traffic light’ system indicating which countries people can visit quarantine-free.
But the Prime Minister has warned it would be ‘sensible’ to avoid importing a fresh wave of the virus – in a sign the Government could take a tough stance on holidays.
Reports suggest less than a dozen European countries are set to be on the ‘green’ list dumping requirements for self-isolation upon return.
It comes after Professor Neil Ferguson said foreign breaks to places like France and Italy will pose ‘no risk’ because they have a similar infection rate to the UK.
There were 6million Covid cases globally last week, compared to 6million in the first five months of the pandemic
Boris Johnson is set to re-permit summer holidays on May 17, but reports suggest he will only drop quarantine requirements for a few countries
For the first time, the Prime Minister confirmed ‘some openings up’ of international travel would get under way from May 17. A formal announcement will be made later this week
Professor Ferguson, who spooked ministers into the first lockdown with his death predictions, has said the UK could reopen its borders with countries that have a similar infection rate because they pose no greater risk.
‘I think if, for instance, by the summer infection levels in France and Italy are the same sort of level as they are here, then there’s no risk associated with travelling overseas,’ he said.
‘The risk comes from going from a place like the UK, with very low infection levels, and going back to a place with much higher infection levels, and therefore having the risk of bringing back infections.
‘If the two places are at comparable levels, and that’s what the EU is saying, then there is no particular risk associated with travel.’