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Vaccine passports to be kept ‘in reserve’, Johnson says after U-turn

Photo by Leon Neal/PA Wire

By Sam Blewett and Richard Vernalls, PA

Boris Johnson has said ministers will work to “avoid vaccine passports, if we possibly can”, after the Government shelved plans to introduce them this month.

The Prime Minister vowed to set out more details on Tuesday when he reveals his plan for dealing with coronavirus this winter, when cases could soar once again.

Facing criticism from Tory backbenchers and the hospitality industry, the Government backed down on plans to make vaccines mandatory at crowded venues such as nightclubs before October.

But Mr Johnson made it clear their possible introduction in England will be kept “in reserve”.

“What we want to do is avoid vaccine passports, if we possibly can, and that’s the course we’re on,” he told reporters during a visit to Leicester.

“But I think you’ve got to be prudent and you’ve got to keep things in reserve in case things change.”

Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced the U-turn for England’s venues on Sunday, just days after vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi defended the policy to highly critical MPs.

Mr Zahawi faced a fierce backlash on Wednesday as he defended the policy in the Commons, arguing vaccine passports had to be introduced to minimise disruption and avoid closures.

On Monday, Mr Johnson said the ministers are “both right”.

The decision means Covid measures in England again deviate from those in Scotland, where a motion on their introduction was passed in the Scottish Parliament on Thursday, while a decision is expected in Wales next week.

Stormont ministers have yet to reach an official position on using vaccine access passports within Northern Ireland.

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