Society will struggle to have the “confidence” to return to normality after coronavirus restrictions are lifted without a vaccine passport scheme in place, Tony Blair has said.
The former prime minister is urging ministers to set out the rules for how a scheme would work whereby people can show proof of their vaccination status or that they have tested negative for Covid-19 to gain entry to venues and events.
Mr Blair predicted a wild west would develop if government did not lead on introducing a “framework”, saying ministers would “find it grows like topsy with no control over it at all” and people “demanding” a way of proving they had been jabbed or swabbed.
Boris Johnson announced this week that Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove is heading up a review into “Covid status certificates” as the Prime Minister acknowledged the “deep and complex issues” surrounding the concept.
Senior officials have frequently appeared to dismiss the idea of introducing vaccine passports in the UK, with the Government’s vaccines tsar Nadhim Zahawi labelling them “discriminatory”.
But, speaking at an event with the Institute for Government on Friday, Mr Blair, whose institute has regularly called for so-called immunity passports to be rolled out, said people would need reassurances before returning to crowded environments.
He said: “I think you are going to find that venues where large numbers of people are going to congregate close to each other, people will want to have some rules around it and I think other people will feel more comfortable if they know there has been at least some requirement, even if it isn’t someone’s been vaccinated, that they have at least been tested before they go.
“Otherwise I think it is hard to see how people have the confidence to go back to life as normal.
“Life as normal is not just about government saying, ‘We allow you to do this’. It is also about people feeling safe to do it – that’s the balance.”
He added: “I look at it from the point of view of the individual, who is also going to want to have something, on their mobile for example, which allows them to definitively say, ‘Here it is’.
“Because whether we like it or not, if you are interacting with the outside world, other people will be demanding it.
“And international travel is I think just one very obvious aspect of that.”
The ex-Labour Party leader, whose government attempted to implement ID cards, said there would need to be “common sense” around the rules to accommodate those who could not get jabbed for medical reasons.
Asked about whether Covid status certificates infringed on people’s choice not to have the vaccine, Mr Blair, who has reportedly been advising the Government on its Covid response, replied: “Well, you might decide for example that at least you should be tested.
“If you’re not prepared to be vaccinated because you just object to vaccinations, well then it is in the interest of other people that you at least take some precautions so you’re not carrying the disease.”
But he added: “I hope there aren’t too many people who as a matter of principle won’t go and take the vaccine because really it isn’t very sensible.”
The former Downing Street incumbent backed Labour’s position on opposing tax rises in next week’s Budget, telling the online audience it was “not the moment for a fiscal tightening”.
He said criticism levelled at current party leader Sir Keir Starmer was “unfair” and that Labour’s challenge was to lay out proposals for a better future for those who have been impacted or lost their jobs due to the pandemic.