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UK's Covid vaccine minister suggests 'immunity passports'

 Nadhim Zahawi MP has said the businesses could require proof of vaccination - image via dailymail

Bars, cinemas and football stadiums could turn away Britons who have not been vaccinated against coronavirus, the UK's vaccine minister has suggested.

Nadhim Zahawi warned many businesses would likely require proof of the jabs once they become available, in the same way they now ask customers to check-in using QR codes.

He admitted ministers were looking at so-called 'immunity passports' on the NHS as a way to prove people had been vaccinated.

Immunity passports have been touted as the key for getting swathes of society back to normal life, and allowing millions to evade restrictions. This is because they would indicate someone is protected against the virus, and is able to fight it off without getting severely ill or dying.

Baroness Dido Harding, the boss of NHS Test and Trace, has also revealed her team are looking at how to update the app to display vaccination status.

The Government has said vaccinations will not be compulsory in the UK, but Mr Zahawi warned there was likely to be restrictions for those that refuse to get them.

It comes amid swirling rumours a Covid-19 vaccine could be approved within days. Moderna said today it would submit its vaccine to regulators in the US and Europe for emergency approval after final trials found it was 94.1 per cent effective.

When asked whether Britons who are vaccinated may get Covid-19 passports, Mr Zahawi told the BBC: 'We are looking at the technology.

'And, of course, a way of people being able to inform their GP that they have been vaccinated.

'But, also, I think you'll probably find that restaurants and bars and cinemas and other venues, sports venues, will probably also use that system - as they have done with the app.

'I think that in many ways the pressure will come from both ways, from service providers who'll say "look, demonstrate to us that you have been vaccinated".

'But, also, we will make the technology as easy and accessible as possible.'

Asked if that meant people who did not have a vaccination would be severely restricted in what they could do, the minister said: 'I think people have to make a decision.

'But, I think you'll probably find many service providers will want to engage with this in the way they did with the app.'

He added on BBC Radio 4's World at One that it would not be compulsory to get a vaccine in the UK.

'I think it is right that it is voluntary.

'People have to be allowed to decide for themselves whether they want to be vaccinated or otherwise.

'But, I think the very strong message that you will see, this is the way we return the whole country, and so it’s good for your family, it’s good for your community, it’s good for your country to be vaccinated.

'And, ultimately people will have to make a decision.'

Baroness Harding told an event organised by the Health Service Journal last week that her team was investigating 'Covid-19 passports' for the app.

She said it was her hope 'in the future to be able to have a single record as a citizen of your test results and whether you've been vaccinated'.

'We are working very closely with the vaccine team to make sure that as we build tools that will enable people to be testing themselves at home and recording the results of their tests that we build an integrated data architecture,' she added, reports The Times.

The Department for Transport is also looking at stamping the passports of tourists to show they have been vaccinated, reports suggested yesterday.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA), based in Montreal, Canada, also said it was looking at developing its own digital passport for travellers.

Its CEO Alexandre de Juniac said: 'Testing is the first key to enable international travel without quarantine measures.

'The second key is the global information infrastructure needed to securely manage, share and verify test data matched with traveller identities in compliance with border control requirements.'

Australian airline Qantas hit the headlines last week after it said that all those wishing to take its flights would need to be vaccinated against Covid-19.

The carrier's boss, Alan Joyce, said the move was a 'necessity' and it was likely to become a 'common thing' for airlines around the world.

He warned, during an interview with Australia's Nine Network, the airline was looking at ways to change its terms and conditions for international travellers.

He said: 'We will ask people to have a vaccination before they can get on the aircraft for international visitors coming out and people leaving (Australia) we think that's a necessity'.

Boris Johnson has suggested that those who repeatedly test negative for Covid-19 should get a 'freedom pass' allowing them to return to a more normal life, but is yet to signal his backing for 'immunity passports'.

Speaking at a Downing Street press conference last week, he said: 'This system is untried. There are many unknowns.

'But if it works, we should be able to offer people who test negative the prospect of greater freedoms - to meet up in certain contexts with others who have tested negative.

He added: 'We will give support to those who have tested positive to help them with isolation.

'But they will know that at the end of their isolation they too will have the prospect of greater freedoms.'

Downing Street has warned the plan is still 'some way off'.

In May, Matt Hancock confirmed ministers were looking at a 'system of certification' that would signify people who are safe to go back to work and mix freely with others.

And in April, the Health Secretary said Britons who have already have fought off the coronavirus could be given 'immunity wristbands'.

Pfizer and Moderna have both revealed their vaccines against the virus are at least 90 per cent effective, with the UK's regulator the MHRA expected to approve them for use in the country in the coming weeks.

As many as four million doses of Pfizer's jab are expected to arrive this side of 2020, with a further delivery due in the new year.

Oxford's vaccine has also been shown to be 60 per cent effective in trials when given as two full doses, or 90 per cent effective when given as a half-dose and a full--dose.

It is based on different technology to the others. While Pfizer and Moderna's use virus mRNA, a type of protein, to trigger an immune response, their's uses Covid-19 spike proteins attached to a weakened flu virus.


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