‘It is sensible of organisations, employers to do the checks they think are necessary in order to protect public health’
In a major U-turn, the health secretary Sajid Javid dumped the compulsory crackdown – planned for night clubs and other crowded events, from next month – arguing people should not have to “show your papers” for everyday activities.
But, just 24 hours later, the work and pensions secretary Thérèse Coffey acknowledged firms are still free to introduce their own certification schemes – and backed them doing so.
“It is sensible of organisations, employers to do the checks they think are necessary in order to protect public health,” she told Sky News.
The schemes introduced by music festivals and some leading football clubs are allowing entry if someone is double vaccinated or can show a recent negative Covid test.
In contrast, the government had threatened to make proof of vaccination compulsory, in a bid to tackle the number of young people refusing to get themselves jabbed.
But Ms Coffey hinted companies were allowed to follow either approach, saying: “Right around the country, people will be going into their places of work, or other areas, and they are already been asked that sort of activity – ‘have you got you two your jabs and similar’ – in order to continue to try and protect.”
That was “recognising, we still have a high number of infections in this country on a daily basis and we still want to keep trying to reduce that”, the minister said.
Ms Coffey also confirmed that compulsory vaccine passports will remain a reserve option and will be part of a “toolbox” of Covid-fighting measures to be outlined in a document on Tuesday.
Boris Johnson is expected to warn that mandatory facemasks could be reintroduced, and work from home guidance reinstated, if a third wave of Covid infections surges this winter.
He is also expected to make clear that compulsory vaccination for large events has not been ruled out forever, despite fierce opposition from Tory backbenchers.
However, the central strategy will be to implement a vaccine booster campaign and extend first jabs to 12 to 15-year-olds, to curb infections in schools.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation will publish its advice to coincide with the announcement, amid criticism of it for dragging its heels.
However, while the body is set to back jabs for younger teenagers, it may only support boosters for the most elderly and vulnerable people, frustrating ministers.
Senior medics and scientists are arguing the UK’s stockpile of spare jabs would be better sent to developing countries, to conquer Covid across the globe.