'A sensible step' – Suffolk MP says Covid certificates a sacrifice for the good of society
- Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown
A Covid certificate scheme would be a "sensible step" to ensure a safe return to normality after the pandemic, a Suffolk MP has said.
Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dr Dan Poulter, who has worked on the NHS frontline throughout the pandemic, made the comments ahead of unveiling of plans for a scheme in Whitehall on Monday.
The scheme – which will use so-called "vaccine passports" among other factors – will be used for the return of large-scale events such as concerts, festivals, sports matches and nightclubs.
Aside from proving spectators have had the vaccine, other factors taken into consideration include proof of a recent Covid infection in the last six months, or a recent negative test.
Dr Poulter said he believes there to be a "strong case" for the scheme's introduction and added he believes it right not to enforce checks in pubs and restaurants.
He said: "Having seen first-hand the devastating impact this virus can have, I am understandably cautious about the speed at which we return to normal.
"However, it strikes me that the vaccine rollout has been incredibly successful, particularly here in Suffolk – so there is an increasingly good argument for us to return to something closer to normal life in the early part of the summer.
"There is a strong case for vaccine passports or proof of testing for larger gatherings, however – for concerts, festivals or nightclubs. What we don't want is a 'super spreader' event.
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"Although the virus rates are low, we know one or two 'super spreader' events could kick-start the spread of the virus again."
Opposition to the plans is strong however, with as many as 40 Conservative MPs having already voiced their objections.
It has been argued that use of vaccine passports will restrict people's freedoms and act as an unnecessarily strong level of government interference in their lives.
To Dr Poulter however, all of the factors taken into consideration with the certificate scheme act as a "small sacrifice" to make in ensuring society stays safe and can return to normal over the next year.
He said: "It makes sense to me to have a way to ensure people going to these events are safe.
"Whether that be with a vaccine passport, proof of recent infection or a negative test result – they are sensible measures to ensure we can move forward in a safe way over the next six to 12 months.
"In the short term, while we are still fighting the virus – to allow all of us to move forward we need to have a recognition that we have a duty to protect each other and stop the spread of the virus.
"Having been through what we have, we can't go back to normal overnight.
"We need to work together, stick together and realise we have a responsibility to do our best as a society to stop the virus spreading.
"My view is that I don't want to see the virus take hold again, or to see people die in front of my eyes like I did earlier this year."
Dr Dan added he hopes the system would disappear after 12 months at the most, and with it bring the country back to a sense of normality.
He said: "What I'd want to see in 12 months is for vaccine passports not to be necessary – and I wouldn't ever want to see them be necessary for someone going out for a meal or to the shops.
"I recognise we won't be able to suddenly reopen to the way we used to before, but we do want to give people back their freedoms and a necessary part of that is a strong set of rules to remain in the short term."
Aside from unveiling plans for the certificate system, Mr Johnson is also expected to announce a new traffic light system for international travel, with countries ranked green, amber or red based on their coronavirus situation.
Dr Poulter said he is completely opposed to the easing of foreign travel restrictions, fearing the impact of variants entering the country which could evade vaccines.
"I am very worried about international travel," he said.
"This is one area where I think the government needs to learn the lessons of the past.
"The virus is spread from one area to another, and if we knew how serious Covid was at the beginning of the pandemic, we would have closed our borders very quickly just like Australia and New Zealand where it worked very well.
"The big worry are the variants of concern, and what I don't want to see is people going on a week-long holiday abroad resulting in dangerous mutations of Covid coming back to the UK which could bring with them a further wave.
"For me, that's the one sacrifice we need to stick with for the next few months, the risks really do outweigh the benefits."