Zahawi: Vaccine passports to be introduced for large venues 'by end of September'

5 September 2021, 11:55 | Updated: 5 September 2021, 12:13

Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Vaccine passports are set to be introduced for large venues "by the end of September", Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi has told LBC.

Speaking on Swarbrick on Sunday, the minister said the plans would come into effect after all 18-year-olds have had the opportunity to have two coronavirus jabs.

His comments come after Downing Street confirmed the government intends to uphold plans for vaccine passports in nightclubs, despite the idea previously being met with criticism from MPs in both parties.

The scheme will force members of the public to show proof they have had two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine in order to gain entry to clubs and other large-scale events.

Read more: Govt intends to press on with vaccine passport plans for nightclubs

Watch: Vaccine passports will not be required for pubs, minister tells LBC

Asked if vaccine passports are going to be introduced, Mr Zahawi told LBC presenter Tom Swarbrick: "By the end of September, when all 18-year-olds would have had the opportunity to have two jabs, then we are looking at making sure that we introduce for venues where we know large gatherings take place whether indoors or outdoors."

He cited the efforts of Premier League football teams who have introduced Covid passport checks at stadiums to ensure the safe return of football fans.

"Nobody does this because we enjoy curtailing people's freedoms," he added, "but the best way to keep some of these sectors open - and not having to open and shut and open and shut, which is detrimental to their future - is to work with them on a vaccine certification."

Read more: Scotland to introduce vaccine passports for nightclubs and large events

Watch: Big Brother Watch Director takes aim at Sturgeon's vaccine passport plan

Nadhim Zahawi told Tom Swarbrick vaccine passports will be introduced later this month
Nadhim Zahawi told Tom Swarbrick vaccine passports will be introduced later this month. Picture: LBC / Alamy

Tom Swarbrick pointed out previous comments made by the vaccines minister in February where he said vaccine passports would not be introduced as "vaccines are not mandated in this country" and "that's not how we do things in the UK, we do them by consent".

Asked what has changed since, Mr Zahawi said: "A massive amount. Between February and now September, we've learned a lot about how this virus behaves or how infectious the Delta variant is compared to flu.

"We've learnt a lot."

He added: "I don't do this with any pleasure. No one in this government, not this prime minister. It's not in his DNA to want to curtail people's freedoms, but what we know now is in large-scale gatherings, especially indoors, the virus will spread and you will get a spike."

He was then asked whether people would be able to show proof of a negative Covid test or a recent bout of the virus instead of two jabs, but was unable to clarify whether this would be the case.

"The best way we can do this is to look at Covid status certification to make sure that people entering those venues are safe themselves and are able to enjoy what they enjoy without having that spike," he told LBC.

Meanwhile, some industry figures have warned vaccine passports could lead to a spike in house parties and embroil clubs in discrimination cases.

In Scotland, Scottish Labour is to oppose its government's vaccine passport plans for nightclubs and large events.

MSPs are due to vote on Nicola Sturgeon's vaccine certification proposals next week, with the Liberal Democrats also expected to oppose them.

Earlier this week, the first minister said she wanted to introduce the scheme "quickly" in response to surging Covid-19 infections, warning they could rise to 10,000 a day.

In Wales, First Minister Mark Drakeford last month said there were "no plans" to introduce mandatory vaccination certificates for venues due to "ethical and equality considerations".

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