Michael Gove Has Denied Suggestions People Could Need "Vaccine Passports" To Go To Pubs And Bars
Michael Gove has dismissed suggestions that "vaccine passports" could be introduced
Michael Gove has triggered fresh confusion over the government's vaccine plans after he denied people might need "immunity passports" to visit pubs and restaurants.
The Cabinet Office minister has insisted the government is not planning to introduce "passports" for vaccinated people just hours after vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi claimed ministers were "looking at the technology".
Speaking on Monday, Mr Zahawi had suggested people could have to prove they had been vaccinate before they were allowed entry to hospitality venues, potentially through the use of the test and trace app when a mass vaccination programme is rolled out next year.
He said: "I think you'll probably find that restaurants and bars and cinemas and other venues, sports venues, will probably also use that system - as they have done with the [test and trace] app."
His comments come after Test and Trace boss Dido Harding told an event hosted by the Health Service Journal that she was working "very closely" with the vaccine team to develop an "integrated data" feed for testing and vaccines.
She said she hoped "in the future to be able to have a single record as a citizen of your test results and whether you've been vaccinated".
But pressed on the suggestion that it could become mandatory to prove your vaccination status before going to pubs and bars, Mr Gove insisted it was "not being planned".
"I certainly am not planning to introduce any vaccine passports and I don't know anyone else in government who is," he said.
Instead, Mr Gove said ministers were focussed on the "big challenge" of ensuring vaccines were rolled out across the country.
"I think the most important thing to do is make sure we vaccinate as many people as possible. There are three vaccines that are going through appropriate testing now to make sure that they're absolutely safe," he told Sky News.
"And the most important thing is to make sure that we get as many people as possible starting with the most vulnerable and then those who work in the front line of the NHS, vaccinated effectively.
"We all know that there's been this issue with measles in the past. We know that if you don't have as many people vaccinated as possible there are measles outbreaks."
He added: "I think we can take on some of the arguments from the anti-vaxx brigade, they're not really based in science. There's a very rigorous process we undergo to make sure vaccines are safe."
And asked whether he agreed with a "no jab, no entry" policy, Mr Gove added: "It is up to any pub owner or licencee to decide who they'll admit and on what basis, they are private businesses.
"But actually, I am not sure that is what people are concerned about...what they are concerned about is making sure we are managing the infection effectively, that the new tier system is going to manage the rate of infection overall, and that we are in a position to deliver the vaccine.
"The prospect of mass vaccination is an exit strategy, is a way out of the situation we find ourselves in. The most important thing is making sure that vaccine is effectively distributed and available. That is the critical question."
His comments come amid growing unrest within his own party to the government's approach to tackling the outbreak, with swathes of Tory MPs expected to rebel against plans to introduce tough new tiers later this week.
But in an attempt to reassure MPs, Mr Gove said he was "confident" the approach would mean areas placed in the highest level of restrictions would be able to move into lower tiers without another lockdown.
"The lesson we can learn from Wales...is that too rapid a relaxation means that you have to slam the brakes on again," he said.
"The one thing we all want to avoid is a national lockdown."
And he claimed he was "confident as confident can be" that the new measures could avoid the need for a third round of national restrictions, saying the approach was "pretty robust".