As both Houses of Parliament rise for summer recess, the final week of term has been dominated by the absolute farce that is ‘ping-gate’ and the ongoing problems with the NHS Covid-19 app and mooted introduction of vaccine passports.
To be abundantly clear, I share the objections of many constituents to the use of so-called ‘vaccine passports’. I have been concerned by recent statements from Government ministers which have made clear that they intend to impose these passports for particular venues, including nightclubs and some large events. I do not think such an approach is right and might well be susceptible to legal challenge. It was disappointing, therefore, to hear the Vaccine Minister last week confirming that the Government continuing on the road to introducing vaccine passports.
It is worth remembering that despite having received the vaccine, it doesn’t mean that at an individual cannot catch Covid or that they cannot pass it on to others. Yes, the risk is thankfully reduced, but proof of vaccination does not guarantee that somebody does not have Covid. Therefore, to utilise vaccine passports as a way of showing that somebody doesn’t have Covid when entering a venue seems utterly redundant.
There are also issues of basic fairness and individual liberty at stake here, as well as the prospect of serious barriers to our economic recovery which I worry would arise if businesses were to begin refusing access to unvaccinated people. A number of individuals have been unable to have the vaccine due to existing health conditions. The introduction of vaccine passports, therefore, would be incredibly discriminatory toward the individuals in that group and lead to a two-tier system.
I’ve had a number of constituents contact me raising concerns with the NHS Track & Trace system, including the use of the smartphone app and the vast increase in the number of people getting ‘pinged’. It is worth reiterating at this point that the requirement to self-isolate, if told to by the app, is advisory and isn’t legally enforceable.
I have written to the Secretary of State in order to seek clarity on this issue because we cannot continue to have situations where entire businesses are having to close because 1 person got ‘pinged’ despite testing negative. It’s not good for the business or the individuals! I have also written to NHS England requesting that they update the language on their website to reflect the fact that the requirement to isolate when contacted by the app is merely advisory.
The system that the Government has introduced to exempt some ‘key workers’ from the need to quarantine on the face of it is welcome, but the actual process and detail behind it is an absolute mess and places a huge number of constraints and barriers on businesses, irrespective of their size. The reality is that the Government should simply introduce a system whereby, instead of isolating, individuals who are pinged take a lateral flow test which, if negative, allows them to get on with their lives and go to work.
It’s absolutely crucial that we get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible, something we can’t do if individuals are being forced to isolate despite testing negative. We need to be doing as much as possible to encourage those who are yet to have the vaccine to have it, unless they cannot on medical grounds. We are in a far better position than we were during the previous waves with 88.5% of Teignbridge adults having had a first dose and almost 75% having had both.
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