Britain’s vaccines minister announced Monday that the government will definitely not mandate the coronavirus shot, and that it has no plans to introduce immunity passports, or place restrictions on those who do not take the jab.
Nadhim Zahawi made the announcement after a petition with more than 324,000 signatures against the so called ‘COVID passports’ was debated in parliament.
“I think mandating vaccinations is discriminatory and completely wrong… and I would urge businesses listening to this debate today not to even think about this,” Zahawi said.
He added that “We have absolutely no plans for vaccine passporting.”
The petition states “I want the Government to prevent any restrictions being placed on those who refuse to have any potential Covid-19 vaccine. This includes restrictions on travel, social events, such as concerts or sports. No restrictions whatsoever.”
Civil liberties groups labeled Zahawi’s comments “a welcome return to rationality”:
🚨Extraordinary + welcome return to rationality by Vaccines Minister today:— Big Brother Watch (@BigBrotherWatch) December 14, 2020
"Mandating vaccinations is discriminatory & completely wrong. I, like @SteveBakerHW, urge businesses listening to this today not to even think about this. We've absolutely no plans for vaccine passports" pic.twitter.com/EK6zEVu1Rf
It is an about face for Zahawi, who just two weeks ago said that he expects bars, cinemas, restaurants and sports stadiums to all demand proof of vaccination against COVID-19 before allowing customers to enter their venues.
“In many ways, the pressure will come from both ways, from service providers who will say demonstrate to us that you’ve been vaccinated, but also we will make the technology as easy and as accessible as possible,” Zahawi said at the time:
We will NOT accept immunity passports, freedom passes, health certificates or any mandatory health tag.— Big Brother Watch (@BigBrotherWatch) November 30, 2020
We will not accept a health apartheid.
Help us fight this - please join us: https://t.co/w6dmvNnxd8 https://t.co/NySsOSeFax
While Zahawi seems to have softened on immunity passports and mandatory shots, the government’s official response to the petition (written in September) was not so clear cut, however.
The Department of Health and Social Care wrote that it is “everyone’s responsibility to do the right thing for their own health, and for the benefit of the wider community,” adding that “the Government will carefully consider all options to improve vaccination rates, should that be necessary.”
Also, note how Zahawi urged business not to adopt COVID passports, indicating that it actually isn’t up to the government if cinemas, bowling alleys, theatres, bars, restaurants and the like decide to require proof of vaccination.
Indeed, airlines have indicated that they will implement the measures regardless, and hotels are the latest sector to indicate they will do the same.
The news also comes in the wake of Israel announcing that those who get the COVID-19 vaccine will be given ‘green passports’ that will enable them “free movement waivers” to attend venues and eat at restaurants.
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