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Covid: Confusion as Gove denies vaccines will be compulsory for pubs and entertainment venues

Rob Merrick
·3-min read
<p>Boris Johnson examins a coronavirus vaccine being made in Wrexham</p> (REUTERS)

Boris Johnson examins a coronavirus vaccine being made in Wrexham

(REUTERS)

Michael Gove has insisted people will not be turned away from pubs or entertainment venues if they refuse to be vaccinated – the day after the vaccine minister said they would.

Government policy when the jabs become widely available next year was plunged into confusion when the Cabinet Office minister denied they would be compulsory to enjoy normal life.

Asked if someone would “need to have a vaccine passport in order to go to the pub,” Mr Gove replied “No” – giving the same answer for the theatre and sporting events.

Mr Gove also sought to pile pressure on Tory rebels before this evening’s crunch vote on the new tougher tiers of Covid-19 restrictions, arguing Wales had proved the folly of lifting curbs too soon.

And, unlike Boris Johnson, he came close to dismissing fears of a third national lockdown in the New Year, saying he was “as confident as confident can be” that it won’t be needed.

On Monday, Nadhim Zahawi, the new vaccines minister, asked if some kind of “immunity passport” would need to be shown, told the BBC: “We are looking at the technology.”

He added: “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 [test and trace] app.”

But, less than 24 hours later, speaking on Sky News, Mr Gove rejected the idea – even as he acknowledged the “big challenge” of convincing people to have a vaccine – although he acknowledged venues could impose their own curbs.

“We've got to persuade people who are opposed to taking a vaccine that it's in all of our collective interest,” he admitted.

The comments could be seen as an attempt to temper Conservative anger over the new tiers – to kick-in when lockdown ends on Wednesday – after the inconclusive impact assessments failed to quell the rebellion.

Boris Johnson is likely to have to rely on Labour abstentions in order to get the measure through, despite planning to announce a one-off payment for the hardest hit pubs.

Mr Gove held out the prospect of areas moving more quickly to a lower tier, if the pain was swallowed now – in contrast to Wales, which has reverted to very-tough restrictions after infections surged there.

“It's always easier to move an area from a tougher to a lower tier once we're confident that the infection is under control, rather than relaxing things and then having to put the brakes on again as we've seen in Wales,” he warned.

Asked if he could rule out another lockdown, he said: “I am as confident as confident can be that we won't need one because the tiers that we have now are pretty robust.

“One thing I fear though would be that if we were to relax the situation too rapidly then we would have the situation which we have had in some other countries, and, indeed, in Wales, where you have to slam the brakes on again.”

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