Covid passports ‘dangerous, discriminatory and counter-productive’ – Labour peer

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Introducing coronavirus vaccine passports for everyday life in England would be “dangerous, discriminatory and counter-productive”, a Labour peer has said.

Former shadow attorney general Baroness Shami Chakrabarti is among a cross-party group of politicians warning ministers against the move amid a review of the issues around Covid-status certification.

More than 70 MPs, including senior Conservatives and former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, as well as peers from the House of Lords, have launched a campaign claiming the scheme would be “divisive and discriminatory”.

Any scheme is likely to go beyond just showing whether someone has had a vaccine – as jabs are not mandatory – covering whether they have had Covid-19, and so are likely to have antibodies, or if they have a negative recent test.

Labour peer Baroness Chakrabarti told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It’s dangerous, it’s discriminatory, it’s counter-productive.”

“It’s one thing to have a passport to travel internationally, that is a privilege, even a luxury, but participating in local community life is a fundamental right,” she added.

The group’s pledge has been backed by Big Brother Watch, Liberty, the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) and Privacy International.

Senior Tory MP Sir Graham Brady, who is also a signatory to the pledge, which has been backed by a string of Conservative former ministers, insisted the aim should be to return to normal life.

The chair of the 1922 Committee of backbench Conservative MPs said: “Covid-status certification would be divisive and discriminatory.

“With high levels of vaccination protecting the vulnerable and making transmission less likely, we should aim to return to normal life, not to put permanent restrictions in place.”

Earlier this week, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer indicated there could be opposition to the move among the public if death rates are near zero and hospital admissions are very low.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson defended the idea and suggested a certificate could give “maximum confidence” to businesses and customers as society reopens.

During a visit to Middlesbrough on Thursday, he said there were “three things” – if someone has immunity, if they have been vaccinated or if they have had a recent test.

“Those three things working together will be useful for us as we go forward,” the Prime Minister said, adding there will “definitely” be a role for vaccine passports for international travel.

It comes as a report in The Daily Telegraph suggested a series of pilot tests for certificates were being planned, which could include the FA Cup final and other sporting events in May.

The Government has insisted no final decisions have been taken on whether Covid-status certification could play a role in reopening the economy.

A spokeswoman said: “The review is considering a range of issues, including the ethical, equalities, privacy, legal and operational aspects, and what limits, if any, should be placed on organisations using certification.”

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, said that introducing vaccine passports could potentially “scupper things” for hospitality venues which are trying to reopen.

Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson said vaccine passports would play a role in international travel (Scott Heppell/PA)

“We will play our part in test and trace but the additional burden of the vaccine passport could really, really scupper things.

“It is a difficult process for us to implement in venues and yet today we have not had a consultation with the Government about how we would do this in pubs.”

In other developments:

– The Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said it had identified 30 cases of rare blood clot events associated with the AstraZeneca vaccine but stressed the benefits “continue to outweigh any risks”.

– The coronavirus reproduction number, or R value, in England is between 0.8 and 1, according to the latest Government figures, compared to a figure of between 0.7 and 0.9 for the whole of the UK last week.

– The Department for Transport said travel bans are to be introduced for visitors from the Philippines, Pakistan, Kenya and Bangladesh, with the countries added to England’s so-called red list.

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