UK

Restaurants, bars and cinemas may turn customers without Covid jab away

No jab? You’re barred! Bars, restaurants, cinemas and sports venues could turn away anyone who hasn’t had a Covid-19 vaccine, minister warns

  • Restaurants, bars & cinemas may turn people away if they haven’t had a jab 
  • Airlines have already been examining the idea of asking for ‘immunity passports’ 
  • Some experts tonight said they were uneasy about such schemes 

Restaurants, bars and cinemas may turn customers away if they have not had a Covid jab, the new minister for the mass vaccine roll-out suggested tonight.

Nadhim Zahawi indicated that although an injection would be voluntary, some venues – including sports grounds – might insist on proof of one in return for granting entry.

The minister said individuals would have to decide for themselves but would be given the ‘strong message’ that jabs were good for their family, community and country.

Airlines have already been examining the idea of asking for ‘immunity passports’ as a condition of flying.

Restaurants, bars and cinemas may turn customers away if they have not had a Covid jab, the new minister for the mass vaccine roll-out suggested tonight

Some experts tonight said they were uneasy about such schemes and raised concerns over data privacy and human rights.

The UK has put in orders for early access to 357million doses of seven coronavirus vaccines. And on a visit to a pharmaceutical company yesterday Boris Johnson said it was possible that one of the jabs could be available ‘in a few weeks’.

The imminent prospect of a huge vaccination drive raises questions over whether those waiting for a jab – or refusing to have one – will enjoy fewer freedoms than those who have protection. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said last night: ‘For a long time now we’ve been looking at the questions that Mr Zahawi was talking about and the question of what’s the impact on the individual in terms of what they can do.’

MPs will today give their verdict on the Prime Minister’s new coronavirus tiers. Although the plans are likely to pass, Mr Johnson is facing a revolt from Tories angry about the stringent restrictions.

In other developments:

  • Ministers finally published a health and economic assessment of Covid and the tiering approach;
  • Rishi Sunak was poised to announce tens of millions of pounds in extra grants for pubs crippled by restrictions;
  • A row broke out over whether a Scotch egg counts as a ‘substantial meal’ to allow Tier Two drinkers to order a pint;
  • Environment Secretary George Eustice suggested Britons could be looking at another six months of curbs;
  • Data showed hospital admissions are falling, with Mr Hancock saying the outbreak was ‘back under control’;
  • Local authorities in Tier Three areas, the highest level of restrictions, can apply for a new six-week community coronavirus testing drive;
  • Confusion reigned over care homes after ministers urged families not to bring loved ones home for Christmas – but said it was not against the law;
  • Pubs in Wales will be banned from selling alcohol and forced to close early despite the ‘firebreak’ lockdown;
  • Shops would be able to open for 24 hours under plans to help them recover;
  • A poll suggested Conservative Party members were frustrated by the lack of data on the impact of lockdowns.

In his first interview since becoming minister for Covid vaccine deployment, Mr Zahawi was asked yesterday about immunity passports and vaccination status being included in the NHS Covid app.

Referring to the vaccine, Mr Zahawi told BBC Radio 4: ‘It is right that it is voluntary. But the very strong message that you will see, this is the way we return the whole country to normal, and so it’s good for your family, it’s good for your community, it’s good for your country.’

On immunity passports he continued: ‘You’ll probably find restaurants and bars and cinemas and other venues – sports venues – will probably also use that system as they’ve done with the app. The reason the app has been so successful is because a lot of places that you would go to, they’ve got the QR code from the NHS that you scan for your own safety.’

Nadhim Zahawi indicated that although an injection would be voluntary, some venues ¿ including sports grounds ¿ might insist on proof of one in return for granting entry. Zahawi is pictured in this file image above

Nadhim Zahawi indicated that although an injection would be voluntary, some venues – including sports grounds – might insist on proof of one in return for granting entry. Zahawi is pictured in this file image above 

He suggested service providers might say: ‘Look, demonstrate to us that you have been vaccinated.’

But government adviser Professor Robert Dingwall, of Nottingham Trent University, speaking in a personal capacity, said: ‘The idea of vaccine passports generally has been condemned by bioethicists, and there are concerns about medical privacy and a long history of abuse of these kinds of measures.

‘There was no need for the minister to discuss the possibility of businesses asking for vaccination status before vaccines are even available to those who want them. This may end up fuelling anti-vaxxers.’

Dr Ana Beduschi of the University of Exeter Law School said health passports posed ‘essential questions for the protection of data privacy and human rights’.

A government spokesman said last night: ‘We have no plans to introduce immunity certificates. Our priority is to ensure we can deploy vaccines rapidly if they pass essential safety checks.’

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