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COVID-19: Should vaccinated Britons have greater freedoms?

  • Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said it is time to distinguish between vaccinated and unvaccinated people
  • Tony Blair urges UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to launch UK COVID vaccine passports and give vaccinated people more freedoms
  • Andrew Marr claims that COVID-19 vaccine passports could be “unworkable”
  • Should shops and restaurants have the right to refuse unvaccinated customers?

Former UK Prime Minister and ex-Labour Party leader, Tony Blair, is urging current Prime Minister Boris Johnson to launch UK COVID passports in time for the June 21st reopening.

Tony Blair told the UK Prime Minister that it is time to “distinguish” between vaccinated and unvaccinated Britons.

Mr Blair insists that it makes no sense to treat those protected against COVID-19 the same as those who have not received COVID vaccines and called for vaccinated Britons to be given greater freedoms.

The former prime minister said that lifting COVID restrictions for vaccinated Britons would provide a powerful incentive for those protected against the virus.

Mr Blair also believes that it would encourage those who are reluctant to get their COVID jabs, to book vaccine appointments with doctor surgeries or at mass vaccination centres.

In a report entitled “Less Risk, More Freedom”, by the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change (IGC), he called for the UK government to allow fully vaccinated Brits to travel abroad without quarantining when return.

Tony Blair urged the UK government to replace the NHS app, which he described as “inadequate”, with a new digital pass, which would allow vaccinated Britons to travel quarantine free and visit “vaccine-only” venues such as sports stadiums and bars.

The “Less Risk, More Freedom” report aims to make coronavirus restrictions as proportionate as possible and put an end to measures that treat populations as homogeneous groups.

According to a statement on the IGC’s website, venues that choose to become vaccine-only should be allowed to remove most limitations on social contact with a robust biometric COVID pass that will enable individuals to prove their vaccine or testing status.

The report said that the UK government’s decision to impose national COVID-19 lockdowns, tiered systems and school closures due to new clusters of the virus being identified was redundant. Mr Blair said a more practical approach would be to take account of an individual’s vaccine status.

UK lockdown lifting roadmap hindered by Indian COVID variant

What does the “Less Risk, More Freedom” campaign aim to achieve?

The ultimate objective of the “Less Risk, More Freedom” campaign is to introduce a new digital system that can operate domestically and internationally.

Under Tony Blair’s current plans, the digitalised pass system will allow people to return to normality safely and prevent another round of economically damaging COVID lockdowns by enabling businesses to avoid mixing vaccinated persons with non-vaccinated people.

Venues would not be forced to become vaccine-only sites, but those that decide to take that move would be subjected to fewer restrictions.

Mr Blair believes a universal government system would also be more effective than a “confusing myriad of COVID-19 passes for different countries” as citizens across the globe would only need one app to travel, dine and enjoy other leisure activities.

In the executive summary of the report, it reads, “the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccinations in reducing transmission is now proven beyond a doubt, and those that are fully vaccinated against the virus are less likely to infect other people.

“Citizens that are completely inoculated are also less likely to die, become hospitalised or develop severe symptoms associated with the virus and as a result, they should enjoy greater freedoms than unvaccinated people.”

The health passes that Tony Blair calls for would allow nationals to prove their vaccine status in a “privacy-preserving way” in their home country and abroad, allowing the sustainable reopening of the global economy.

Where travel is concerned, the “Less Risk, More Freedom” report suggests that fully vaccinated Britons visiting “green” listed destinations should be allowed to travel without needing to quarantine or provide negative COVID tests.

Speaking to former BBC political editor Andrew Marr, Mr Blair said that his proposed system is far more advantageous than current approaches being taken by governments.

Tony Blair said a single, global digital system would “facilitate access to government services and cut out fraud.”

Mr Blair’s comments come as the UK records an additional 5,341 daily coronavirus cases and four deaths within 28 days of a positive COVID test.

According to GOV.uk, Britain posted 115 deaths in the past week, while the latest 7-day case average at 3,699 has increased by more than 1,100 on the previous week.

However, his statement also came amid reports that the UK administered 13.5 million vaccines in May – a new monthly record.

As of June 7th, 68,381,870 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in Britain. The UK government is also now extending the rollout to over 25-year-olds in the country.

UK extends COVID-19 vaccine rollout to over-25s

Earlier today, UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed that ministers had decided to extend Britain’s coronavirus vaccine rollout to over 25-year-olds.

Mr Hancock also told the House of Commons that scientists believe that the Indian variant, formally known as B.1.617.2, is 40% more transmissible than the Kent strain, which was the dominant mutation in Britain until last month.

He highlighted that increased caseload had been concentrated in secondary school-aged children and stressed the importance of children getting tested at least twice a week to prevent widespread school closures.

As the race between COVID jabs and variants spreading grows “tighter”, the UK government has also asked the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) to produce clinical advice on vaccinating secondary school children.

It comes after the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) concluded a favourable safety profile for the PfizerBioNTech COVID jab in children aged 12-to-17-years old.

However, Britain’s Health Secretary said that as the Indian variant continues to spread, it is too early for ministers to tell if they could give the scheduled June 21st reopening the green light

Speaking to the Commons, Mr Hancock said: “I know that these restrictions have not been easy, but with our vaccination programme moving at such pace, I am confident that one day soon, freedom will return.”

Britons scheduled to receive their second COVID jabs are also being urged to rebook appointments as soon as possible. At the same time, intervals between vaccine doses for the clinically vulnerable and over-50s have been reduced from 12 weeks to 8 weeks.

According to the latest reports, the NHS has invited more than 1.7 million Britons to reschedule their COVID-19 vaccine appointments as part of a broader aim to tackle the rapidly spreading Indian variant.

Dr Emily Lawson, the NHS lead for the COVID-19 vaccination programme, said: “Coronavirus vaccines are Britain’s most effective weapon in the fight against COVID-10, and there has never been a more important time to get protected.”

Although the Indian variant is posing a threat, the UK remains on track to offer a COVID vaccine to all UK adults by July-end. Currently, more than 75% of the adult population has received one dose of a coronavirus vaccine.

Concurrently, over 27 million UK adults are fully vaccinated. Although the UK government is yet to announce whether they will go ahead with the June 21st reopening, the accelerating rollout is boosting hopes.

Will Britain’s June 21st unlocking be delayed?

According to the latest reports, ministers are discussing whether to maintain the mask-wearing rule in specific venues or delay lifting legal limitations on social contact until the following month.

Earlier this month, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson hinted that there is nothing in the data to suggest that the June 21st reopening should be delayed.

However, scientists have warned the British government that the UK is in the early stages of a third COVID wave and that failure to take appropriate action could trigger an explosive surge in cases.

Several Conservatives are urging the British Prime Minister to press ahead with plans to remove all coronavirus restrictions.

Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen explained: “Britons have become accustomed to living with COVID-19. However, living with the coronavirus does not mean we have to be subjected to constant restrictions – that’s not a solution to the issue.”

Chief Executive of NHS Providers, Chris Hopson, also commented on stop-start restrictions, stating that while the number of people hospitalised with the B.1.617.2 variant increased, the volume of patients has been nowhere near levels seen during previous waves.

Researchers are also testing to see whether “mixing and matching” vaccines will trigger a more robust immune response in vaccinated recipients than two doses of the same COVID-19 jab.

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