Tony Blair calls for vaccine passports to prevent another lockdown

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Tony Blair poses for a photograph ahead of an interview - TOLGA AKMEN/AFP
Tony Blair poses for a photograph ahead of an interview - TOLGA AKMEN/AFP

The UK should introduce vaccine passports for domestic use or risk being forced into another lockdown, Tony Blair has warned.

In a new policy paper setting out recommendations to keep the pandemic at bay come winter, the former Prime Minister described a Covid pass as “the central policy required to avoid further lockdowns”.

“The use of a Covid Pass can serve two purposes – incentivising vaccination and reducing transmission,” says the report, published this weekend by Mr Blair’s think tank, the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change.

“They are the only tool that allows us to show that those who have the virus and need to stay at home actually are at home, and that those who are free of the virus are able to move around freely.”

Mr Blair has long been an active proponent of vaccine passports, both for domestic use and to facilitate international travel. The report points to France, which has historically struggled with vaccine hesitancy, as a success story demonstrating their utility.

France now has a slightly higher proportion of its population vaccinated than the UK despite starting later.

“According to the [French] prime minister’s office, 12 million people have been vaccinated since President Emmanuel Macron announced the introduction of a coronavirus passport in July,” says the new report. “While opinion is mixed, it is reportedly the view of many doctors that the requirement of the passport flattened the curve of the pandemic this summer.”

Mr Blair says a similar scheme here would ensure a Covid-free individual was free to move around in public, even if cases rose. This step, he adds, “needs to be taken urgently to give businesses confidence that avoiding further lockdowns is more than an aspiration but is deliverable.”

The 26-page document comes after Boris Johnson unveiled his two-part “Autumn and Winter Plan” to combat Covid on Wednesday. While the Prime Minister is not ruling out any additional measures, a vaccine passport scheme – which is unpopular among backbench Tory MPs – would only be imposed under his existing ‘Plan B’.

The Government also stopped short of reintroducing face mask mandates or a work from home mandate, instead relying heavily on booster shots, the rollout of vaccines among children and the test and trace system to keep the virus in check.

That approach was strongly criticised by the Tony Blair Institute, which warns that “the room for manoeuvre in the government’s plan is limited” and suggested that “the UK runs the risk of pursuing piecemeal tactics without the right plan”.

To keep the percentage of Covid patients in intensive care below 25 per cent and prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed, more measures designed to prevent the transmission of the virus are required, the paper says. This includes enforced mask-wearing in crowded, unventilated spaces.

The paper also calls for renewed focus on efforts to vaccinate the globe, warning that reducing transmission worldwide is essential to “bring Covid-19 to a manageable endemic state”.

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