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Shapps: Good idea for workers to be fully vaccinated before return to office

By Aine Fox, Ben Hatton and Catherine Wylie, PA

Workers being double-jabbed before returning to the office is a “good idea” but will not be a legal requirement, a Cabinet minister has said, as he ruled out Covid passports for pubs and shops.

The Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, said some companies will require their staff to be fully vaccinated but that the Government will not make it legislation.

He also confirmed that while revellers will need proof of vaccination for entry to nightclubs later this year, it will not be needed to go to the pub.

The Government has faced demands to recall Parliament amid concerns Covid vaccine passports have been introduced by “stealth” via the NHS app.

A tweak to the wording on the NHS Covid Pass section has raised concerns, as it now includes a “domestic” section, which states: “You may need to show your NHS Covid Pass at places that have chosen to use the service.”

Mr Shapps told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “We won’t go as far as requiring it (proof of vaccination) to enter a shop or the pub.

“We will for very close contact things like going to nightclubs – other countries are for international travel – so I think there is precious little reason not to be vaccinated, every good reason to be vaccinated.

“Why wouldn’t we want to save lives? It’s just obvious to me.”

He said he did not know why the issue is “particularly controversial”, due to the high number of people who have already had jabs.

He said: “For most people this doesn’t matter one way or the other.”

Liberal Democrat former minister, Alistair Carmichael, accused the Government of having “committed to vaccine passports by stealth” and said Parliament must be recalled to discuss the measure.

Parliament is in recess until September 6 and can only be recalled at the request of the Government.

Asked about people having both vaccine doses before they go back to the office, Mr Shapps told Sky News: “It is a good idea and, yes, some companies will require it.

“We are not going to make that legislation that every adult has to be double-vaccinated before they go back to the office but, yes, it is a good idea and, yes, some companies will require it.”

Mr Shapps also indicated the Government is unlikely to budge on the August 16 date for people in England who are double-vaccinated no longer having to self-isolate if a contact tests positive for coronavirus, despite pressure as other nations move to drop the rule earlier.

Asked if the date is set in stone, he told Sky: “Yeah, right now that is the date. We’ll always keep these things under review but I don’t want to open up false hope for you, it’s not too far away now.”

Wales has confirmed fully vaccinated adults will not have to isolate from August 7, a change which will come into effect on the same day the nation is expected to move to alert level zero – when most coronavirus restrictions will be lifted there.

Anyone who tests positive for Covid-19 or has symptoms must continue to isolate for 10 days regardless of their vaccination status, the Welsh Government added.

It will also advise those identified as a contact of a positive case to have a PCR test on day two and day eight, whether they are fully vaccinated or not.

Scotland is also expected to remove the need for fully vaccinated people to isolate on August 9.

Boris Johnson has been urged to bring forward England’s date after a rise in Covid cases led to a surge in people being “pinged” by the app, which caused disruption to several sectors and reached a recent record level of almost 700,000 alerts sent to Covid app users in England and Wales.

Some frontline workers are exempt from isolation, including those in prisons, waste collection, defence, the food industry, transport, Border Force and police and fire services.

Daily negative test results enable those eligible workers who have been alerted by the NHS Covid-19 app, or called by NHS Test and Trace as coronavirus contacts, to continue working.

Meanwhile, experts have expressed cautious optimism about coronavirus in the UK for the near future.

Professor Ravi Gupta, a scientist advising the Government as part of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), agreed with comments earlier this week made by Professor Neil Ferguson who said that by late September or October we will be “looking back at most of the pandemic”.

Prof Gupta told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme: “I think that’s right, but we will potentially see more cases and more hospitalisation towards the winter.”

Dr Jeffrey Barrett, director of the Covid-19 Genomics Initiative at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, was asked if he thinks it might be “over” after that.

He told Today: “I think we can hope that. I think that’s a cautiously optimistic kind of perspective, but I think we also shouldn’t underestimate the possibility that the virus will continue to mutate, and we’ll have to continue to respond for a little while longer to come.”

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