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Vaccines minister hints at possibility of vaccine passport for churches

by Tola Mbakwe

UK Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi has hinted at the prospect of churches requiring a vaccine passport from the public.

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Mr Zahawi said suggested that churches could be allowed to check people’s Covid status.

"If we want our lives back, I think we've got to at least – if nothing else – look at all this stuff."

The idea has been met with some hesitancy. Danny Webster, head of advocacy at the Evangelical Alliance, said: “Vaccine passports for churches?!!!...a frightening prospect of regulating who can come to church.”

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson has sought to calm fears over the possible introduction of coronavirus health certificates amid criticism from pub landlords and Tory backbenchers.

Ministers are reviewing their potential use, which could see access to hospitality venues granted only if customers have been jabbed, received negative tests, or developed antibodies through past infection.

Professor Stephen Reicher, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behaviours (Spi-B) said on Saturday that the measure being considered by the Government could compound hesitancy in those already sceptical of vaccines.

“I don’t think that the idea of vaccine passports to get into the pub is a good idea and I think in many ways they could be counterproductive,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

He said “the notion of in effect making them (vaccines) compulsory led to anger and to lowered uptake” among those who were already hesitant in a small survey in Israel, which is backed in other international studies.

“I think positive incentives, something that gives you something extra, is one thing. People actually aren’t adverse for vaccine passports to travel internationally. But when it comes to negative incentives, to in effect barring people from their everyday lives, from social activity, then actually they work in a very different way and people behave very negatively,” he said.

“When it comes to excluding people from everyday lives things swap around. And what’s more it leads to other problems like social division.

“We’d be in a position where those communities who are less likely to get vaccinated begin to be excluded from our city centres, from social life, and that would create a whole swathe of social problems, it would destroy any sense of community which has been so positive in the pandemic.”

The Prime Minister this week acknowledged the “moral complexities” around a domestic vaccine passport scheme, which the Government will set out more details on in early April.

He suggested that it might only be possible to introduce one after all adults had been offered a vaccine at the end of July.

But pub landlords rejected their use after his earlier suggestion it could be up to them to decide whether to screen customers’ certificates on entry.

However, a Whitehall source said one possibility being considered was that landlords may be able to scrap social distancing if they check Covid health certificates on entry.

The move would allow them to operate at much higher capacity and could be a strong incentive for them to participate in the scheme.

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