The government has been warned by its own equalities watchdog that covid-status certificate schemes or “vaccine passports” could be discriminatory, it has been reported.
Ministers are considering whether the documents could be required as a condition for entry for public spaces such as sports events or – despite significant opposition from Tory MPs as well as Labour and the Lib Dems.
The certificates are expected to allow users to display whether they have received a vaccine, undertaken a recent test or have antibodies.
However, the Equality and Human Rights Commission is reported to have told the Cabinet Office that such a measure would create a “two-tier society” in the UK.
Boris Johnson himself has said that the risk of discrimination is one of the sticking points in developing a scheme for protecting public spaces.
The EHRC advice, reported in The Guardian, also warns employers should hold back on “no jab, no job” policies until all young people have been offered immunisations, that plans to make jabs mandatory for care workers may be unlawful, and that “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”.
Earlier this month, figures including Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey and Tory 1922 committee chair Graham Brady said the certificates should not be used to “deny individuals access to general services, businesses or jobs”.
The politicians – joined by Labour’s Dawn Butler, Rebecca Long Bailey and Jeremy Corbyn; Lib Dems Layla Moran, Tim Farron, and Alistair Carmichael; and Tories Iain Duncan Smith, Peter Bone, and Steve Baker – signed a joint letter with the support of more than 70 MPs opposing the measure.
Baroness Chakrabarti, a Labour peer, added: “International travel is a luxury but participating in your own community is a fundamental right.
“So internal Covid passports are an authoritarian step too far. We don’t defeat the virus with discrimination and oppression but with education, vaccination and mutual support.”
It comes after a leaked letter from the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital Foundation showed the NHS trust was planning to make vaccinations against coronavirus a contractual requirement for all they employ.
Meanwhile, the the Department of Health and Social Care has announced it will launch a consultation on proposals to make vaccination among care home staff a requirement of their employment.
The department warned the current staff vaccination level was below 80 per cent in 89 separate local authority areas and across all 32 London boroughs.
Unison general secretary Christina McAnea said: “Boosting the number of vaccinations in the social care sector is essential for everyone’s safety. But mandatory jabs are the wrong approach and a massive distraction.
“Too heavy-handed an approach could backfire badly. Some staff may simply up and go, leaving a poorly paid sector already struggling with thousands and thousands of vacancies in a terrible state. That could damage the quality of care for the elderly and vulnerable, and no one wants that.”
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