An expert has today warned of ‘fundamental ethical concerns’ over vaccine passports.
Dr Sarah Chan, a bioethicist at Edinburgh University, said state-issued documentation showing whether someone has received the Covid jab could risk ‘creating a false sense of security’.
She explained that proof of having the vaccination does not fully guarantee that a person cannot contract coronavirus, saying jabs offer some protection but are ‘not 100 per cent effective in 100 per cent of cases’.
But Dominic Wilkinson, professor of medical ethics at Oxford University, believes vaccine passports could allow travellers to ‘be waived from quarantine’ on arrival and thus ‘open up some options in travel’ that don’t exist currently.
It follows scientists claiming yesterday that the official papers, which would allow people to go on holidays abroad, are ‘feasible’ but cannot be introduced yet.
Dr Sarah Chan (pictured above), a bioethicist at Edinburgh University, warned that vaccine passports could risk ‘creating a false sense of security’
A 93-year-old woman receives an injection of the Pfizer vaccine from Dr Sheenagh Macnamara at Waterford Primary Care Centre in south-east Ireland on February 16
Speaking this morning, Dr Chan told Radio 4’s Today Programme: ‘If what we expect that this will be our ticket back to normality, to free movement, travel, the risk-free resumption or normal activities, the problem is that at the moment, vaccine passports can’t actually provide this.
‘So proof of a person’s having been vaccinated doesn’t at the moment 100 per cent guarantee that they can’t catch Covid. Vaccines offer some protection but they’re not 100 per cent effective in 100 per cent of cases.
‘But more importantly, it doesn’t, on the evidence that we have at the moment, mean that these people don’t still pose a risk to others in terms of passing the disease on.
‘So this being the case, giving people a passport to move about freely in society I think risks creating a false sense of security, and might also attract attention from other measures that are necessary to address the pandemic in its ongoing effects.’
However Professor Wilkinson, who also appeared on the programme, believes there is a ‘strong ethical case’ for exploring the prospect of vaccine passports.
He contended: ‘I think there’s evidence coming through all the time about the effectiveness of the vaccine and its reduction in the spread of the virus.
‘There’s evidence released earlier this month on the Oxford vaccine and its influence on the spread of the virus.
‘Of course we can wait and wait for further and higher standards but in doing so there’s a cost of that and the cost is that we remain – those of who are immunised and those of us who are not – very restricted in our movements and in our daily lives.
‘And the question is whether we should think of these vaccine passports as a way to in a measured way return to some of our freedoms, even if the evidence is not 100 per cent at this stage.’
Scientists have said that standards of vaccine passports already in operation around the world vary and need to be made universal for the certificates to be useful for international travel.
Members of the public are pictured waiting in a queue to receive a dose of the Covid-19 vaccine at a temporary coronavirus vaccination hub in Colchester, Essex, on February 6
Dominic Wilkinson, professor of medical ethics at Oxford University, believes vaccine passports could allow travellers to ‘be waived from quarantine’ on arrival (file photo)
And the Royal Society academics warned more evidence is needed on immunity, in order to establish how long a passport can be valid for.
They stressed a ‘broader discussion’ was needed about some of the key aspects of any document, such as the need for legal and ethical standards and data privacy.
No10 has so far denied it has plans to introduce any passport scheme, with vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi describing their use as ‘wrong’ and ‘discriminatory’.
But ministers are ‘increasingly positive’ that foreign summer holidays will be possible this year, despite accepting that some countries may require proof of vaccination as a condition for quarantine-free travel in the future.
Some senior ministers have urged Boris Johnson to consider vaccination certificates in order to help breathe life back into the crippled hospitality industry.
One Government source said: ‘It’s looking increasingly positive on summer holidays. Once the vaccination passport system is set up it should be straightforward. That won’t be easy, but we can see the way ahead.’
Foreign Office minister James Cleverly said no firm decisions had been taken but ‘we will speak to international partners about what they may require and respect that’.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan pictured receiving his first dose of the Covid vaccine, administered by Dr Sue Clarke, at a vaccination clinic in south London yesterday
He told the BBC: ‘It would be wrong for me to start speculating now. We are assessing the numbers, we are making a judgment based on the science and we will be making an announcement on Monday. I can’t go further than that.’
Greek tourism minister Haris Theoharis said that vaccination passports and mass testing could allow for a ‘semi-normal summer’.
The aviation industry is expecting a task force to be announced to come up with a plan for when international travel could be re-started. An industry source said: ‘I think that provides the Government the ability to say we’ve heard aviation, while telling the public, we’re not moving too fast here.
‘What’s frustrating for us is we’ve been trying to do our part to support the Government but we’ve been getting very little support back.’
Meanwhile, a five-minute Covid test made in the UK could be the key to kick-starting the return of clubs, live sporting matches and concerns.
Yorkshire firm Avacta have developed a new super-fast lateral flow test which is understood to be in its last testing stage at the Government’s top-secret Porton Down lab.
But for the live entertainment industry, the road to normality is set to be much longer due to the risk of transmission that comes hand-in-hand with large crowds.
It is hoped that five-minute rapid testing – which is much shorter than the 30-minute option available currently – will be used on admission to large events.
Yorkshire firm Avacta (its CEO Alastair Smith, pictured) have developed a new super-fast lateral flow test which is understood to be in its last testing stage at the Government’s top-secret Porton Down lab
It is hoped that five-minute rapid testing – which is much shorter than the 30-minute option available currently – will be used on admission to large events (file image)
The Prime Minister is set to announce his ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown on Monday.
He is poised to allow more social mixing within weeks, providing a light at the end of the tunnel for millions of grandparents isolated from their grandchildren.
Ministers are looking at the data and a final decision on when the restrictions will be eased will be taken at the weekend.
It is thought the new plan could replace the ‘Rule of Six’ as entire families, regardless of size, are expected to be allowed to meet up in outside spaces.
From April, two households would be able to meet outdoors while gatherings of six people from six different households would also be acceptable.
Relatives who live further away from each other may have to wait a little longer for a reunion, as the future rules on travelling longer distances are still unclear. And in the case of those who do meet up, the two-metre rule is expected to remain in place for months to come.
The Prime Minister (pictured) is poised to allow more social mixing within weeks, providing a light at the end of the tunnel for millions of grandparents isolated from their grandchildren
It is thought the new plan could replace the ‘Rule of Six’ as entire families, regardless of size, are expected to be allowed to meet up in outside spaces. From April, two households would be able to meet outdoors while gatherings of six people from six different households would also be acceptable (file photo)
Welsh salons to reopen – but no luck for Brit barnets until April
Hairdressers may be able to open within four weeks – at the same time as non-essential shops – in Wales.
Wales First Minister Mark Drakeford said: ‘If it is possible from March 15 to begin the reopening of some aspects of non-essential retail and personal services such as hairdressing then … that is what we would want to do.’
Hairdressers and barbers had been expected to reopen weeks after shops.
Mr Drakeford’s comments to BBC Breakfast will likely put more pressure on Boris Johnson to do the same in England.
He also announced on Friday that children aged between three and seven will return to schools from Monday, with further pupils joining by mid-March if conditions allow.
Lockdown restrictions, which have been in place in Wales since December 20, will also be slightly eased to allow four people from two different households to exercise together.
Mr Johnson is set to meet senior ministers tomorrow to hammer out the final details. The committee will examine the latest data on the impact of lockdown and the vaccine rollout, so they can decide how quickly to lift restrictions.
Cabinet will then rubber stamp the plans on Monday morning, before they are revealed to the Commons that afternoon.
The blueprint is likely to see schools return on March 8 along with more relaxed rules on outdoor exercise; the return of outdoor sports like golf and tennis at the end of next month and non-essential shops opening soon after Easter.
Pubs and restaurants may also be able to serve people outdoors from April – although not indoors until May.
Ahead of revealing his roadmap out of lockdown, Mr Johnson has also been urged to allow pubs to reopen as soon as possible.
Beer sales in pubs dropped by 56 per cent in 2020, a decrease of £7.8billion, due to Covid-19 restrictions and the lockdowns, according to British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) figures.
Emma McClarkin, BBPA chief executive, believes that pubs should reopen alongside non-essential retail once the most vulnerable in society have been vaccinated, as they have a community role.
She said: ‘The Great British Pub has always been more than just a place to drink. It is where we go to connect. It is where we go to form community.’
There are also fears over workers being made homeless as tens of thousands of pubs are small family businesses which also double up as someone’s home, the BBPA said.
Meanwhile, the co-founder of fast food chain Leon said this morning it is ‘quite plausible’ the company will not exist if the ‘weeks and months drag on’.
John Vincent told Radio 4’s Today Programme: ‘About 235 businesses a week are going under. It’s not being reported, it’s not being understood.
‘We served 1million meals as to the NHS, a million meals to frontline ITU teams.
‘If we don’t exist, which is quite plausible if the weeks and months drag on, we can’t even do the basics of what we did to feed a million meals to frontline teams. ‘Businesses are at the heart of a functioning, healthy society. I would say: Produce the analysis, inform yourself and take the whole picture into account for the good of society.’
It means friends and family could be able to see each other again in time for the Easter holidays. The Prime Minister will spend the weekend putting the finishing touches to his long-awaited roadmap, before he announces it on Monday (file image)
A Whitehall source said rules around how many people they can spend time with outdoors will be relaxed. Ministers are looking at the data and a final decision on when the restrictions will be eased will be taken at the weekend. Pictured, people out in Scotland last July
Five-minute Covid test could spark opening of nightclubs, gigs and cinemas
Nightclubs, theatres and sporting events could reopen thanks to a five-minute coronavirus test, scientists have revealed.
Yorkshire biotech firm Avacta has developed a rapid test that could pave the way for the so-called Operation Moonshot, reported the Huffington Post.
The operation is a plan to reopen thousands of clubs and theatres across Britain.
The new Avacta test has more rapid and accurate results than the American devices currently in use.
Boris Johnson is already set to announce the use of lateral flow tests, which take 30 minutes, in his roadmap to reopen Britain.
But these five-minute devices could make entry to venues much quicker.
‘So that’s money that isn’t going into the economy, it’s not going into the wallets of people that work at Leon, and it’s not going to pay the taxes that we need to pay.
‘So that absolutely costs lives and its quite disappointing that the government hasn’t produced in any way… if you magnify that.
‘No one has asked us these numbers. So how does the Government even know what is going on in the economy?’
It comes as the Government was last night forced to deny that Chris Whitty feels ‘very unhappy’ about plans for a ‘big bang’ reopening of schools on March 8.
Downing Street knocked down claims the chief medical officer has concerns a full return – rather than a staggered approach call for by unions – will cause a spike in infections.
Mr Johnson has made clear his ambition for all 10 million schoolchildren and staff to return on March 8. The children would be tested for coronavirus twice a week in an effort to control the spread of the virus.
But education sources told The Guardian Mr Whitty was ‘very unhappy’ with the plan. Some officials are concerned a mass return will both rise infection rates and pose problems with administering covid tests to pupils.
Both ministers and senior advisers want Mr Whitty to publicly back a full return, but he is said to be ‘lukewarm’.
A Department for Education source last night branded the claim ‘absolute b******t’. A government source also said the claim was ‘categorically untrue’.
SAGE have modelled the impact of sending all children back to school at once, against a staggered year-by-year approach.
They believe that sending all children back to school at once will inevitably lead to a slightly bigger rise in the R value than only a smaller number of children.
However, Government scientists have stressed that it is up to ministers to weigh up these risks against the well-being of children.
Officials including Mr Whitty have repeatedly stressed the immense damage to children of staying at home target than being at school.
The slow opening is likely to anger hospitality chiefs who have demanded an accelerated lifting of restrictions, given the success of the vaccine rollout. It is as yet unclear when domestic staycations or travel around Britain will be allowed to resume.