Boris Johnson’s government is mulling the use of vaccine passports for big events such as football matches – having already announced they will be required for nightclubs and other crowded spaces in England from the end of September.
Mr Gove risked the wrath of Tory MPs firmly opposed to mandatory use of vaccine passports by warning those who refuse to be jabbed that they may not be able to access mass events.
“Ultimately, if you can be vaccinated and you refuse to, that is a selfish act,” said Mr Gove during a visit to the Lighthouse Lab in Glasgow. “You’re putting other people’s health and lives at risk – you should get vaccinated.”
When asked if refusal to be jabbed should prevent attendance at some mass events, the Cabinet Office minister said: “It depends on which part of the United Kingdom you’re in and what the nature of the event is.
“But if you deliberately refuse to get vaccinated and there are certain venues and certain events that require a certain level of safety, then the terms in which you will be able to get into those venues ... those events will be barred to you.”
Suggesting some form of mandatory Covid certification was necessary, Mr Gove pushed for cooperation across the UK – but stressed it would be for the devolved administrations to make their decisions on the matter.
“I think that the more we collaborate on this, the better,” he said. “The Scottish government will decide for itself what form of Covid status certification they believe is right.
“We’ve worked well with the Scottish government so far, but I think that people would expect there to be, in the same way we’ve got the same access to NHS services across the United Kingdom, the same access to certification, that would be the ideal, but it’s for the Scottish government to decide.”
Influential backbench Tory MP Steve Baker said the issue of vaccine passports could cause a major rift in the party, following reports the government was considering a plan that would require students in England to be double jabbed before returning to universities.
“It is an outrageous proposal, and one that doesn’t seem likely to do any good,” said Mr Baker, deputy chair of the Covid Research Group (CRG) told The Sun.
“I believe the government is in terrible danger of splitting the Tory party irretrievably, after all we have been through with Brexit.”
A group of more than 40 Tory MPs have signed a petition launched by privacy rights group Big Brother Watch against Covid status certification denying individuals “access to general services, businesses or jobs”. Dozens of Labour and Lib Dem MPs have also signed the declaration.
But Mr Gove rejected the idea of split in the Conservatives over the issue. “We’re going to do what’s right for public health.
“I think that Covid certification in certain limited venues and for certain limited events is a way of making people safer and giving more of us more freedom,” he added.