Watch: Minister refuses to be drawn on COVID passports
A government minister has refused to rule out the prospect of so-called coronavirus “immunity passports”.
Junior foreign minister James Cleverly would not be drawn on the idea in an interview with Sky News on Monday, repeatedly avoiding questions on the issue.
It came as the first image of a coronavirus vaccine reminder card that will be handed out to people after they are immunised was revealed.
The NHS reminder card was photographed on Sunday along with a batch of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine at Croydon University Hospital in south London, one of the first 50 hospitals to be given the jabs to administer them from this week.
The card contains space for the name of the vaccine, its batch number and the date given – and there is room for a second appointment because the vaccine is issued in two doses. The patient’s name is on the card.
The government has so far insisted it has no plans for a COVID ID passport, but Cleverly dodged questions from interviewer Kay Burley about the possibility.
He said: “Ultimately, what we’re looking to do is get this vaccine rolled out as quickly as possible.
“It’s about making sure there is a wide rollout. It’s about unlocking people’s lives, it’s about unlocking the economy.”
Last week, the government insisted that so-called “immunity passports” will not be issued in the UK.
Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said last Tuesday that Britons won’t need a COVID-19 vaccine passport to go to the pub.
“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, that’s not the plan,” he told BBC Breakfast.
“What we want to do is to make sure that we can get vaccines effectively rolled out.
“Of course, individual businesses have the capacity to make decisions about who they will admit and why.
“But the most important thing that we should be doing at this stage is concentrating on making sure the vaccine is rolled out.”
But his comments appeared to contradict those made by newly appointed vaccine rollout minister Nadhim Zahawi, who had suggested the previous day that the hospitality industry could refuse entry to those who haven’t had a COVID-19 vaccine.
Zahawi had 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.”
Patients aged 80 and over who are already attending hospital as an outpatient are first in line to receive the vaccine.
And hospitals have already begun working with care homes to book in appointments for over-80s.
The NHS reminder card reads: “Don’t forget your COVID vaccination”.
A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care said on Monday the card is an NHS initiative and is simply a “record that you’ve had the vaccine”.
The government in Wales has already said the card will be used there by people who are immunised against coronavirus.
People will receive the NHS immunisation card with the vaccine name, date of immunisation and batch number of each of the doses given, handwritten on them.
These will act as a reminder for a second dose and for the type of vaccine, and it will also give information about how to report side effects.
The UK has secured 40 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine – enough to immunise 20 million people.
The vaccine needs to be stored at -70C before being thawed out and can only be moved four times within that cold chain before being used.
Health secretary Matt Hancock said: “This coming week will be a historic moment as we begin vaccination against COVID-19.
“We are prioritising the most vulnerable first, and over-80s, care home staff and NHS colleagues will all be among the first to receive the vaccines.
“We are doing everything we can to make sure we can overcome significant challenges to vaccinate care home residents as soon as possible too.”
Watch: COVID vaccine arrives at hospitals