Coronavirus: Global situation

PM Johnson to ditch plan for vaccine passports in England

LONDON • British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will this week set out his plans to manage the Covid-19 pandemic in the winter months, announcing a decision to scrap the introduction of vaccine passports and steps to end some emergency powers.

Mr Johnson, under fire from some in his governing Conservative Party for raising taxes to fix a health and social care crisis, looks set to try to soothe those critics by ditching plans to introduce vaccine passports amid an increasing number of coronavirus cases.

Under the scheme, people in England would have had to show proof - of double vaccination, a negative swab test or completion of self-isolating after a positive test - in order to gain entry to clubs and other mass events.

Speaking to broadcasters, Health Minister Sajid Javid said he did not anticipate more lockdowns and that the vaccine passports would not be introduced in England as the government would depend instead on vaccines and testing to protect the public.

"Now that we're entering autumn and winter... the Prime Minister this week will be setting out our plans to manage Covid-19 over the coming few months," Mr Javid told Sky News.

He told the BBC he was not anticipating any more lockdowns, but would not take the measure off the table, that the government would not go ahead with vaccine passports, and that he wanted to "get rid of" polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for travellers as soon as possible.

Mr Javid added that the government would remain "cautious", but that the country's vaccine, testing and surveillance programmes as well as new treatments are "our wall of defence".

Britain, which has one of the highest official Covid-19 death tolls in the world, has seen the number of cases climb over the last few months after easing restrictions in July when the government first bet on vaccines to protect the public.

The government was handed sweeping emergency powers in March last year with the introduction of the Coronavirus Act, which included measures to allow the authorities to bar protests, shut businesses and restrict travel.

The main opposition Labour Party said it agreed that it was a "reasonable" approach to take some measures off the statute book but that lawmakers would study the details of the proposals.

"Obviously we will want to study the detail when it comes to Parliament because there have been huge concerns about the way in which the Coronavirus Act has been misused by the authorities," Labour's health policy chief Jonathan Ashworth said.

Mr Johnson faced a revolt from his own Conservative MPs in the House of Commons last week, with many warning that vaccine certificates were illiberal and unworkable.

The Premier is keen to avoid a long-running fight with his party on the issue, just as he is trying to convince them to back a controversial tax hike to fund the National Health Service.

REUTERS, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 14, 2021, with the headline 'PM Johnson to ditch plan for vaccine passports in England'. Subscribe