MP Nadhim Zahawi's passport denial under question
Stratford MP Nadhim Zahawi’s strenuous denials that the government would not be introducing Covid-19 passports have been severely undermined.
Mr Zahawi was one of several ministers, including Cabinet minister Michael Gove and Health Secretary Matt Hancock as well as Zahawi, who were adamant Covid-19 passports were not being considered.
Meanwhile the Department of Health and Social Care appeared to score an own goal by putting out a tender to businesses for a contract to develop them.
Mr Zahawi was appointed as the new health minister overseeing the rollout of the vaccine in England in late November.
During his first days in office he speculated to the the BBC that UK residents might need some proof of vaccination in order to eat at restaurants or attend sports events.
This was quickly denied by Gove and Hancock who both said there were “no plans for a vaccine passport”.
Then, in an interview with the Herald two weeks ago, Mr Zahawi appeared unequivocal on the matter when he said: “Absolutely categorically we are not going down the route of a vaccine passport and I’m on record saying that.”
Yet on 18th December the DHSC published details of the contracts given to two IT businesses to develop an app that would allow carriers to demonstrate they were Covid negative “to enable workplaces, educational centres, health and social care services and places of business to open to members of the public”.
Mr Zahawi’s office declined to comment on the matter, and instead referred the Herald to the DHSC. Its response was brief and not entirely transparent.
A spokesperson said: ““We are continually exploring ways in which we can return to normality as soon as possible while controlling the spread of the virus. This includes ways in which technology could be utilised to enable workplaces, educational centres and health and social care services to reopen to the public safely.
“We have no plans to introduce immunity passports following this vaccination programme.”
The department would not be drawn on commenting further on at what point the Covid passport app that is or has been developed could be introduced.
Responding to news that apps could be used as ‘immunity passports’ to record people’s vaccination status Sam Grant of campaigners for freedom Liberty, said: ““Immunity passports raise more questions than they answer. At the moment we don’t know how our privacy would be protected, who will have access to our data, or how it could be used in conjunction with other information.
“But perhaps even more concerning is the fact immunity passports could pave the way for a national ID system – an idea which has repeatedly been rejected as incompatible with building a rights-respecting society.
“We have always supported proportionate action to protect lives, but immunity passports aren’t that.”