Health minister Sajid Javid, left, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson address the media in London, Britain, September 7 2021. Picture: NEIL HALL/EPA/BLOOMBERG
Health minister Sajid Javid, left, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson address the media in London, Britain, September 7 2021. Picture: NEIL HALL/EPA/BLOOMBERG

The UK will abandon plans to call for proof of vaccination to enter venues, and may soon drop mandatory testing for returning travellers as part of a further easing of coronavirus restrictions to be announced this week, even as cases surge. 

“I’ve never liked the idea of saying to people: ‘You must show your papers’ or something to do what is just an everyday activity,” health minister Sajid Javid said on Sunday. 

“We’ve looked at it properly, and whilst we should keep it in reserve as a potential option, I’m pleased to say that we will not be going ahead with plans for vaccine passports.”

Earlier, on Sky News, Javid said a final decision on vaccine passports was still pending.    

Javid spoke ahead of steps expected to be announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday to manage Covid-19 over the autumn and winter. The UK removed many of its coronavirus restrictions in July, but that initial step towards normality has been marred by a surge in cases of the Delta variant of the virus. 

Still, Javid is not expecting any further lockdowns. “I think it will be irresponsible for any health minister around the world to take everything off the table, but I just don’t see how we get to another lockdown,” he said.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon made similar comments on Sky, saying Scotland was not in danger of another lockdown despite rising cases there.

The UK is on pace to start a vaccine booster programme this month, Javid said. The health chief is also keen to end the costly PCR tests needed by UK travellers returning from certain countries. 

“I want to take that away as soon as I can, but it must be based on the public health’s advice,” he said. “We should only keep measures in place if they are absolutely totally necessary.”

Javid said Johnson will this week announce that some of the measures in the Coronavirus Act, which were by necessity emergency powers, will be dropped. These include the power to shut down a business, to shut down education settings and to require certain restrictions around people who are infectious.

“A lot of these powers can go,” the health minister said. “But some of them are necessary to keep, such as requiring people to self-isolate if they test positive.”

The Times earlier reported that while Johnson may drop the need for proof of vaccination for entry to nightclubs, cinemas and sports grounds, companies that now require certification of vaccines will be able to continue doing so. 

Javid said there was no deadline for the government to finalise plans for vaccinations in 12- to 15-year-olds. The UK’s four chief medical officers are considering the issue, he said.  

On Times Radio, Javid said that schools have been preparing vaccination programmes for if or when the green light is given. He said he was “confident” of a fast rollout. 

UK coronavirus cases remain high, but with the vaccine programme well advanced — more than 80% of people over 16 are double-vaccinated — hospitalisations and deaths have remained lower than in previous waves. 

Autumn and winter are typically times when illnesses such as the coronavirus and flu are on the rise. 

Javid said the UK would be making a big push on flu shots, potentially paired with coronavirus boosters, to keep the country as healthy as possible.

Bloomberg News. For more articles like this please visit Bloomberg.com

 

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