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Covid-19 vaccines will not be compulsory, says minister responsible for rollout

By Shaun Connolly, PA Political Correspondent
·2 min read

The minister responsible for the rollout of coronavirus vaccines has insisted jabs will not be compulsory – but said hospitality and entertainment venues may insist on seeing proof people have had one.

Health minister Nadhim Zahawi said pressure would come from service providers for customers to show what has been dubbed a so-called “immunity passport” in future.

Referring to Covid-19 vaccines, Mr Zahawi told the BBC: “I think it is right that it is voluntary.

“People have to be allowed to decide for themselves whether they want to be vaccinated or otherwise.

“But I think the very strong message that you will see, this is the way we return the whole country, and so it’s good for your family, it’s good for your community, it’s good for your country to be vaccinated.

“And ultimately, people will have to make a decision.”

Watch: COVID-19 - People who refuse to get vaccine could be denied entry to venues, minister suggests

Asked whether people who get the Covid-19 jab will receive some kind of “immunity passport” to show they have been vaccinated, Mr Zahawi said: “We are looking at the technology.

“And, of course, a way of people being able to inform their GP that they have been vaccinated.

“But, also, I think you’ll probably find that restaurants and bars and cinemas and other venues, sports venues, will probably also use that system – as they have done with the app.

“I think that in many ways, the pressure will come from both ways, from service providers who’ll say, ‘Look, demonstrate to us that you have been vaccinated’.

“But, also, we will make the technology as easy and accessible as possible.”

A mural thanking the NHS on Ballyregan Road in east Belfast (Brian Lawless/PA)
A mural thanking the NHS on Ballyregan Road in east Belfast (Brian Lawless/PA)

Asked if that meant people who did not have a vaccination would be severely restricted in what they could do, the minister said: “I think people have to make a decision.

“But I think you’ll probably find many service providers will want to engage with this in the way they did with the app.”

Pressed on how vaccines would begin to be distributed, Mr Zahawi said: “The health and social care workers, care home residents, then, obviously, starting with the over-80s and then moving down the age scale. That is the advice.”

Watch: Growing number of Italians hesitant about taking COVID-19 vaccine