Politics

Covid passports could make pandemic worse – leaked memo lays bare ‘Plan B’ concerns

Coronavirus: Plan B 'should be implemented' says Dr Amir

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Requiring organisers of large events to check attendees’ vaccination status remains a key part of Boris Johnson’s backup plan for tackling the pandemic. The measures would be introduced as part of the winter “Plan B” if a rise in cases risks a surge in hospitalisations that could overwhelm the NHS.

Ministers say the jabs policy remains on the table, despite an impact assessment by the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) indicating the passport system risks making the public health situation worse.

The 13-page long “official sensitive” document produced last month says introducing the passports would risk forcing more people to socialise in areas not required to carry out the checks.

More people would be likely to gather in poorly ventilated pubs, according to the document seen by The Telegraph.

“There is potential displacement between live events venues and hospitality venues,” it reads.

“A core concern in the sector is that certification could displace activity and business away from music venues to, say, pubs with music and late alcohol licences, etc. which could be counterintuitive and potentially counter-productive.

“Similarly, if certification displaces some fans from structured and well-ventilated sports stadia, this could lead to them attending unstructured and poorly ventilated pubs instead, where they will have access to more alcohol than if there were in the stadia.

“Evidence from the Euros showed spikes in cases associated with pubs even when England were playing abroad.”

In July, when moving to Step Four of the roadmap out of lockdown, Mr Johnson said compulsory vaccine checks would be introduced from the end of September.

But following outrage from Tory backbenchers and threats of a Commons rebellion, the Prime Minister ditched the plan.

He said the checks would remain part of the “toolbox” of measures that could be brought in if the situation gets out of control.

Ministers have promised they will hold a vote in Parliament before a Covid certification system is introduced.

Getting the plans through the Commons will be a much tougher task following the leaking of the DCMS impact assessment.

A spokesman for the department said: “There is good evidence to suggest certification would have a beneficial impact on infection rates and it would also avoid the need for capacity caps or closures.”

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They added: “Plan B is as published in the autumn and winter plan and this document does not represent Government policy.

“We have been clear throughout that we would only implement Plan B if evidence suggested the NHS was going to come under unsustainable pressure.”

Ministers have been under increasing pressure to move to plan B in recent days following a rise in Covid cases, hospitalisations and deaths.

As many as 52,009 new infections were reported on Thursday last week, although there has been some drop off since then.

Daily admissions to the NHS have been above the 1,000 mark for the past two days running and there are currently 8,239 people on hospital wards who have tested positive for the virus.

There are 889 Covid patients in ventilation beds.

Despite calls for the reintroduction of some measures to help suppress the virus, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said yesterday: “If the public continue to abide by the behaviours and guidance we have set out, and those eligible get their booster jabs, we believe we can further curb cases and bring rates down, along with hospitalisation and deaths.

“There is no plan to move to Plan B at this stage.”

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