Vaccine passports creates two-tier society, Equalities watchdog warns

Vaccine passports could create ‘two-tier society’: Equalities watchdog warns Covid certificates could break the law and lead to discrimination

  • Equality and Human Rights Commission warns passports will exclude people 
  • Says forcing people to get jab or having a ‘no jab no job policy’ may be unlawful
  • Covid-status certificates being considered by ministers to help open up society 
  • Boris Johnson’s own MPs warn they will be ‘intrusive, costly and unnecessary’
  • But the PM sees them as the short-term answer to opening up society  

Vaccine passports could be unlawful, create a ‘two-tier society’ and discriminate against migrants, ethnic minorities and the poor, Britain’s equalities watchdog has warned the Government.

‘Covid-status certificates’ being considered by ministers to help open up society, get people back into work or away on holiday despite concerns from Boris Johnson’s own MPs that they will be ‘intrusive, costly and unnecessary’.  

Recent polling has found the majority of Britons back their use – especially for foreign holidays – but there are wider concerns that they could be used in every facet of life including to get on public transport, into shops, pubs and restaurants.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has today piled more pressure on the PM and told the Cabinet Office that while they are a ‘proportionate’ way of easing restrictions, they could also exclude people from everyday life.

And they warned that a ‘no jab, no job’ policy could be illegal before the entire population is offered a jab, while plans to force all care workers to be vaccinated could also be subject to a legal challenge.

The EHRC’s submission, seen by the Guardian, says they could cause ‘indirect discrimination’, citing recent migrants to the UK, people from black and minority ethnic groups or those from poorer backgrounds.

‘There is a risk of unlawful discrimination if decisions taken in this process disadvantage people with protected characteristics who have not received, or are not able to receive, the vaccine, unless they can be shown to be justified,’ it said. 

Boris Johnson has vowed to push on with vaccine passports despite increasing warnings they could discriminate 

Vaccine passports could create a ‘two-tier society’ and discriminate against migrants, ethnic minorities. the poor and anyone else who hasn’t had the jab 

Millions could go to pubs with no social distancing under plans to let drinkers use mobile phones to prove they are free of Covid. This graphic shows how the app would have worked 

‘Any mandatory requirement for vaccination or the implementation of Covid-status certification may amount to indirect discrimination, unless the requirement can be objectively justified.’

Warning over ‘nightmare’ vaccine passports 

Putting vaccine passports into law would be a ‘nightmare’ and require ‘enormous scrutiny’, leading experts have warned.

Danny Altmann, professor of immunology at Imperial College London, told Times Radio this month that while in general they were a good thing if they made people feel a bit safer and more people were vaccinated, they needed ‘enormous scrutiny’.

He said: ‘I find it difficult to have the vaccine passport conversation, and I’ve had quite a lot of these discussions of policy advice level, without getting into the detail because who of us wouldn’t think that vaccine passports were in general, a good thing, if people felt a bit safer and more people were vaccinated and we had more assurance of that?

‘And yet, one or two sentences into discussion you get rather sort of bogged down at the devil is in the detail, and there are an awful lot of confounders there where you could make some very, very poor legislation.’

Asked if vaccination passports will require new laws which could be difficult to word correctly, Prof Altmann added: ‘I think the detail is an absolute nightmare and, without being pedantic or negative, requires enormous scrutiny.’

 

It came as Matt Hancock launched a consultation on plans to force essential workers, such as those working in care homes, to have the jab. 

Boris Johnson touted vaccine passports as one of the best way to get into pubs, theatres or stadiums, months after the Government ruled them out. 

Greece yesterday lifted its travel ban for vaccinated Britons and holidaymakers who test negative for Covid, paving the way for holidays there in less than five weeks.

From next week British travellers who show proof of being fully vaccinated or a negative test taken within 72 hours will no longer have to quarantine on arrival.

It means quarantine-free holidays to the Mediterranean destination will be possible in little over a month if ministers lift the ban on foreign travel on May 17.

Greece would also have to make it onto the UK’s green list of destinations under the Government’s new ‘traffic light’ system.

A senior Greek tourism official confirmed the UK is one of five non-EU countries for which quarantine requirements are being lifted.

The others are the United States, Serbia, Israel and the United Arab Emirates due to their equally high vaccination rates.

Any visitors would have to abide by domestic lockdown restrictions until May 14, when Greece plans to fully re-open its tourism industry.

The Greek official said: ‘We will gradually lift the restrictions at the beginning of next week ahead of the opening on May 14.’ The development will pile pressure on ministers to set out when the ban on holidays will be lifted, which countries are to make it onto the green list and when ‘vaccine passports’ for foreign travel will be ready.

The earliest the ban on foreign holidays can be lifted is May 17 under the government’s roadmap for re-starting international travel.

Entry to festivals and major sporting events will only be allowed to those with either an NHS app or certificate showing they have had a covid jab, the Prime Minister is expected to announce on Monday (file image)

The ‘Covid status certificates’ would show whether the bearer had recently tested negative for the disease or had antibodies either through a vaccination or past infection (stock image)

Ministers have so far failed to guarantee holidays being allowed again from mid-May.

Football and rugby push on with talks to use covid passports and get fans back into stadiums this month

The government is testing Covid passports at events in April and May, including at the FA Cup Final.

A crowd of 21,000 is expected at the showpiece at Wembley on May 15, and spectators will need to show a ‘covid certification’ to attend.

However, football and rugby fans could watch sport at full stadiums next season using a £20 antibody test they obtain from a local pharmacy that will prove they have immunity to Covid.

A consortium of UK companies, which have developed and manufacture the test, are already in talks with football and rugby organisations about using it to help sports grounds to return to full capacity, including large stadiums with 50,000-plus seats.

The UK Rapid Testing Consortium told Sportsmail the test can be administered at a pharmacy, takes around 20 minutes, with the results being uploaded to an app on a smartphone or ‘chip and pin’ photocard’, which can be scanned on entry to the ground, alongside a supporters’ ticket or season card.

They say the advantage of a antibody test for immunity is that it can be valid for months. An antigen test has to be taken in the days before an event, to prove a person does not have coronavirus. 

They are also yet to rank countries green, amber or red under the traffic light scheme, officially unveiled in a report last week.

The report by the global travel taskforce, led by transport secretary Grant Shapps, said Britain would play a ‘leading role’ in developing ‘vaccine passports’ so inoculated people can enjoy fewer restrictions while travelling.

But there has so far been no detail about how they will work or when they’ll be operational.

Ministers were criticised by travel chiefs during a hearing of the transport committee yesterday for not providing more clarity about where it will be possible to travel and when, given the ban on foreign holidays could be lifted in less than five weeks.

Aviation minister Robert Courts was quizzed by chairman of the committee, Huw Merriman MP, on why countries have not yet been graded.

Only travellers to green countries will avoid ten days’ self-isolation or quarantine upon return to the UK.

Mr Merriman said: ‘I just find it incredible that we don’t know, even on a provisional basis, what the rules will be if you want to travel to Greece for instance for May 17.’

Britons will be able to enter Greece via airports in Athens, Thessaloniki, Heraklion, Chania, Rhodes, Kos, Mykonos, Santorini and Corfu as well as two border crossings.

Under current rules, all foreigners arriving in Greece should test negative before travel and quarantine for seven days.

Passengers from Britain and the United Arab Emirates must also take a second mandatory test is required upon arrival.

It came as summer holidays to other European destinations edged a step closer after EU governments struck a deal on how bloc-wide ‘vaccine passports’ scheme could work.

Europe’s botched vaccine rollout is slowly picking up pace, increasing the likelihood of holidays on the Continent in time for summer.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said yesterday that 100 million doses had been handed out among 440 million EU citizens.

A leaked copy of the draft law for re-starting holidays, obtained by the Mail, says that officials will now recognise proof of vaccination from non-EU countries such as Britain. Initially, Eurocrats drew up plans for kick-starting travel internally within the EU only.

Britain is currently on the EU’s so-called travel blacklist, which is decided by diplomats in Brussels based on case rates.

But the list is only advisory which means EU governments, like Greece, can still strike their own bilateral ‘travel corridor’ deals with non-EU nations such as Britain if they see fit.

Greece plans to lift quarantine restrictions from next week for travellers from the European Union and five other countries who have been vaccinated or test negative for COVID-19

Key data such as which vaccine was used, the number of doses and the dates of inoculation must be present on certificates for non-EU visitors to be accepted.

The system will also allow travel for non-vaccinated people who can show proof of a negative PCR test.

It states that the EU decided to draw up the plans to avoid being ‘confronted with a wide array of diverging document formats’ across different destinations.

Negotiations will now begin with the European Parliament to finalise the law with a view to resuming hassle-free travel across Europe in June. 

But holidaymakers face border chaos this summer unless the Home Office deploys more resources at airports and ports, MPs were told.

Heathrow Airport warned the situation was already ‘becoming untenable’ and that travellers in recent days have been queueing at the border for up to six hours.

Police are also having to be called in to deal with angry passengers.

Heathrow’s chief solutions officer, Chris Garton, told MPs on the Commons transport select committee the airport was still seeing between 10,000 and 15,000 arrivals daily but that current border resources are unable to cope.

Before the pandemic, Britain’s biggest airport saw around 125,000 arrivals a day and current levels will increase once holidays get under way again under the Government’s ‘traffic light’ system for re-starting international travel.

Mr Garton told the committee the bottlenecks were due to every passenger needing to be checked manually for having filled out a ‘passenger locator from’, proof of a negative Covid test within 72 hours and having booked either a hotel quarantine or testing package depending on where they have travelled from.

He said ‘automating’ the process by re-opening electronic passport gates was crucial.

He said: ‘Typically we have 10,000 to 15,000 arriving. More than half of them are experiencing delays in excess of two or three hours each day and it is a daily occurrence.

‘Our concern is the automation is not coming fast enough and we want to see more rapid progress to automate the process to enable those travellers to keep flowing.’

He added: ‘We’ve typically had queues well in excess of two hours and up to six hours in recent days.

‘A whole host of new checks and 100 per cent checking of everybody has been introduced and that has put a tremendous burden on the officers who work at the border.

‘The Home Office has not provided them with additional officers. We would like to see more resources at the border anyway, but Covid has just made that so much worse than it was before. And the situation is becoming untenable.

‘We’re starting to see disruption in some of the arriving passengers if you’re made to queue for two or three hours.

‘It’s not something you want to have to do and we’re even having to involve the police service to help us, so we want to see that bottleneck removed as quickly as possible. It’s a problem today, it will become a much bigger problem after May 17.’

He said the border was ‘our biggest issue in terms of the summer’ and that ‘we need to see a dramatic improvement in border performance’ to avoid chaos this summer.

63% of voters back use of vaccine passports in Mail On Sunday poll

An exclusive Mail on Sunday poll (left) has found the use of the vaccine passport documents was backed by 63 per cent of respondents, with 25 per cent opposed

Voters overwhelmingly back the use of vaccine passports as a ‘bridge to freedom’, an exclusive Mail on Sunday poll has found.

The use of ‘Covid status’ documents was backed by 63 per cent of respondents to the Deltapoll survey, with 25 per cent opposed.

Some 66 per cent would feel comfortable using them for the pub, 62 per cent for the office, 67 per cent for hairdressers, 68 per cent for supermarkets, 65 per cent for sports events and 70 per cent for holidays abroad.

Boris Johnson’s relaxation of many of the rules tomorrow brings a collective sigh of relief across the nation, with the return to pubs, restaurants and shops welcomed by most people. The most popular change is the return of visits to the homes of friends and family, backed by 86 per cent.

The announcement last week that the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab had been linked to extremely rare blood clots is reflected in the fact that the Pfizer jab is deemed the best option by 27 per cent of people, followed by 16 per cent for Oxford and 5 per cent for the new Moderna jab. A total of 36 per cent do not have a preference. Of those vaccinated, 50 per cent say they had minor side-effects, 5 per cent major side-effects and 45 per cent experienced none.

Deltapoll co-founder and director Joe Twyman said introducing the passports before sufficient people have been vaccinated ‘could undermine their popularity’.

The firm interviewed 1,608 British adults online from April 8-10, weighting the data to represent the adult population. 

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