COVID-19: Students may need to be fully vaccinated to attend lectures

 COVID-19: Students may need to be fully vaccinated to attend lectures

Students may need to be fully vaccinated to attend lectures

LONDON, 26 July: Ministers have confirmed they could force students in England to be double vaccinated to attend lectures in person or stay in halls of residence, setting the government on a possible collision course with a number of its own MPs.

Education minister Vicky Ford did not rule it out, saying: “I think it’s really important that young people step forward for their vaccination.”

Ford told to international news channel: “Obviously, I can’t comment on things that haven’t been announced, but one does need to look at every practicality to make sure that we can get students back safely, and make sure we can continue to prioritise education.

Asked to confirm it was being considered, she added: “We’ve always considered everything that we can do to make sure that all people are safe in education. And the key thing, as we know, to keep transmission down, is to make sure that people get their vaccination.”

The response was an apparent change from an interview Ford did earlier with international media. Asked there if double vaccinated would become a requirement for students to attend university lectures, she replied: “No.”

According to media sources, Ford’s department has mooted the idea but is also concerned about its practicality, given the self-governing nature of universities.

It is another front in the government’s push for so-called domestic vaccine passports, an idea ministers had previously ruled out. A week ago, Boris Johnson said these would be necessary for people attending nightclubs or similarly crowded venues from late September.

Such ideas, which do not allow the alternative method of showing a recent negative Covid test or proof of antibodies for the virus, have alarmed many Conservative MPs on civil liberties grounds, as well as the Liberal Democrats.

Labour has also expressed scepticism about the idea, meaning the government could well lose any Commons vote on such a plan. However, there is speculation that the floating of such ideas is aimed primarily at pushing more young people into getting vaccinated.

Asked about the general idea of vaccine passports on Monday, Keir Starmer said he would “look carefully at what the government puts forward”, but appeared to offer support only for certification for large events – and only if testing was also used.

“The idea we can go back to mass sporting events without any kind of checks is not one I subscribe to,” the Labour leader told LBC, adding: “I don’t want to see vaccine passports used on everyday basis.”

It comes as one leading scientist expressed cautious optimism after the number of new Covid-19 cases in the UK fell for five days in a row for the first time since February – although this does not include the impact of 19 July restriction easing.

On Sunday, the UK recorded 29,173 new cases, down from 48,161 logged on 18 July. It is the first time since the pandemic that a sustained drop has not coincided with a national lockdown. Most legal restrictions on social contact in England were lifted on 19 July.

Web Desk

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