Scrapping vaccine passports the latest Government pandemic U-turn

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Sajid Javid has said plans to introduce vaccine passports, requiring members of the public to show proof of double-vaccine status, have been scrapped.

The Health Secretary announced the latest Government U-turn on Sunday, following a backlash from Tory MPs.

Throughout the pandemic, Government advice has shifted on a range of issues, including testing and infection prevention guidance, resulting in anger and confusion.

Here is a summary of some of the different twists and turns Government advice for England has taken:

The Andrew Marr show
Sajid Javid said on Sunday that plans to introduce vaccine passports, requiring members of the public to show proof of double-vaccine status, will be scrapped.

At the start of the pandemic the NHS said a “significant expansion” of testing was being undertaken to “ramp up” facilities so that 10,000 coronavirus tests could be performed a day.

But a day later England’s chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, said only those at hospitals would be formally tested.

Essential workers and their households became eligible for testing at the end of April, with this expanded to all people aged five and over with symptoms, in the middle of May.

– July 14: Face coverings must be worn in shops

About four months after England went into its first lockdown, face coverings became mandatory for shop customers.

The Government was initially reluctant to enforce the wearing of face coverings, with experts warning they could give a false sense of
security and improper use could increase the spread of infection.

Coronavirus face masks
Facemasks were made mandatory for travelling on public transport in England in June, but it was not until July that they were required inside shops (Victoria Jones/PA)

– August 25: Face masks required in schools

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson performed a U-turn when he announced face coverings would be required for secondary pupils and staff in communal areas of schools in local lockdown areas of England. This was despite him previously insisting they were not required.

The new advice came a day after a Number 10 spokesman said there were no plans to review the guidance.

– September 22: Return-to-work advice scrapped

Last year’s plans to get employees back into their workplace in a bid to boost the struggling economy were scrapped, with Mr Johnson telling office staff to work from home if they could.

Working from home
Plans to get employees back into their workplace in a bid to revive the economy were scrapped in September 2020 (Joe Giddens/PA)

But a rise in coronavirus cases forced him to change the advice.

– October 31: Second lockdown announced

A month-long second national lockdown for England was announced by Mr Johnson, after a system of tiered restrictions in England failed to control rising case numbers.

It had been hoped the tiers would tackle a second wave of coronavirus, while avoiding the economic damage of a full circuit-break.

– December 14: Local restrictions changed early

Two days before a planned review of the coronavirus tier system on December 16, former health secretary Matt Hancock placed London and parts of Essex and Hertfordshire into the highest tier of restrictions.

The announcement moved almost 10.8 million people into Tier 3.

– December 19: Christmas cancelled for millions

Less than a week before Christmas Day, Mr Johnson announced that south-east England would move into a new Tier 4, scuppering the festive plans of millions.

The affected areas had to spend two weeks, covering the Christmas and New Year period, following rules similar to the November lockdown.

The Christmas bubble policy previously announced by the Government was curtailed and was applied only to Christmas Day, for people living elsewhere in the country.

– July 18 2021: Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak not forced to self-isolate

Number 10 announced the Prime Minister and Chancellor had been contacted by NHS Test and Trace, but would not be isolating as they were taking part in a pilot workplace contact-tracing scheme.

The news caused a furious backlash online from members of the Labour Party, including shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth and deputy leader Angela Rayner, who accused the Government of being “above the law”.

But in a dramatic turnaround just three hours later, Downing Street said the men would be self-isolating after all, rather than taking part in the daily contact testing pilot.

Coronavirus app
Downing Street announced Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak would not be isolating, despite being contacted by NHS Track and Trace, before swiftly reversing the decision (Yui Mok/PA)

Health Secretary Sajid Javid says the Government “will not be going ahead” with plans for the controversial vaccine passports, following backlash from some Tory MPs.

Plans had been announced that members of the public would be required 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 in England.

But Mr Javid told the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show he’d “never liked the idea”.

“We’ve looked at it properly and whilst we should keep it in reserve as a potential option, I’m pleased to say that we will not be going ahead with plans for vaccine passports,” he said.

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