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Pubs and venues may turn away people not Covid-vaccinated, says minister

Harry Taylor and agency
·2-min read
<span>Photograph: Paolo Paradiso/Alamy</span>
Photograph: Paolo Paradiso/Alamy

Customers who have refused a Covid-19 vaccine could be turned away by hospitality and sports venues, the government’s vaccine minister has suggested, as he discussed the idea of using technology to reopen the economy.

Nadhim Zahawi, who was appointed on Saturday to be responsible for overseeing the rollout of the jab, said that while having the vaccine would not be compulsory, businesses such as pubs and restaurants might require proof that people have been vaccinated before allowing them in.

It raises questions over whether the government might use immunity passports as a way to get people back into shops and hospitality venues after a vaccine is licensed. They are already used by some countries to see whether people have protection against yellow fever or polio.

Asked by the BBC whether those who have been inoculated would get an immunity passport, Zahawi said: “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 [test and trace] 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.”

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The MP for Stratford-upon-Avon and minister for business and industry said people would have to “make a decision” on whether to get vaccinated, and said if they chose not to they could face severe restrictions.

The health secretary, Matt Hancock, told a Downing Street press conference: “For a long time now we’ve been looking at the questions that minister Zahawi was talking about and the question of what’s the impact on the individual in terms of what they can do.

“Firstly, we do not plan to mandate the vaccine. We think that by encouraging the uptake of the vaccine, we will get a very high proportion of people in this country to take up the vaccine, because of course it protects you but it also helps to protect your loved ones and your community.”

Ilan Kelman, a professor of disasters and health at University College London, said care needed to be taken for those who were unable to receive a vaccine for medical reasons.