UK opposition leader says 'British instinct' likely to oppose COVID passports

FILE PHOTO: Labour Party leader Keir Starmer speaks with medical staff during a visit to the Whittington Hospital in London, Britain, March 15, 2021. Leon Neal/Pool via REUTERS

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s opposition Labour leader Keir Starmer has expressed scepticism about the use of so-called vaccine passports to allow people to access hospitality and entertainment venues, saying the “British instinct” could be against such documents.

The government is reviewing the idea of asking people to show proof of a COVID-19 vaccination to access crowded spaces such as pubs or sports events to help with the reopening of some sectors of the economy.

Starmer said he would not make any formal decision on whether to support the initiative before studying government proposals but indicated there could be opposition to the idea from the public if death rates are near zero and hospital admissions are very low.

“I think this is really difficult and I’m not going to pretend there’s a clear black and white, yes-no easy answer on this,” Starmer told the Daily Telegraph.

He said if “we get the virus properly under control, the death rates are near zero, hospital admissions very, very low, that the British instinct in those circumstances will be against vaccine passports.”

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson suggested last month that some pubs might require customers to produce vaccine certificates but said it may be up to individual venues to decide. He acknowledged there are “moral complexities” around introducing such rules.

The leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey this week branded the use of COVID-19 passports within the United Kingdom as “illiberal” and “unworkable” and the plans are opposed by some lawmakers in Johnson’s party.

Britain has recorded 4.3 million cases of COVID-19 and a total death toll of more than 126,00 people, one of the highest rates in the world.

Reporting by Andrew MacAskill; Editing by Christopher Cushing