Ironbridge museums boss voices vaccine passports fears

A boss at one of the county’s major visitor attractions today raised concerns about the prospect of vaccine passports.

Nick Ralls, chief executive of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust
Nick Ralls, chief executive of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust

Nick Ralls, chief executive of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust, said he believed a focus on safety measures should instead be the priority for venues as they welcome visitors back.

It comes as the UK government is expected to give more details about a proposed ‘Covid-status certification’ – effectively a vaccine passport that could allow people to attend to sporting fixtures, theatres and other public events.

A series of pilot events, including the FA Cup final, cinema screenings and nightclub events are planned to take place up until mid-May.

Mr Ralls said he would not want to see a situation where staff were having to turn people away from the site because they did not have the right certification.

He said: “It is quite a controversial issue.

“I would rather focus on safety measures we have in place because then we are not having to discriminate or put our staff in a difficult position where they have to turn people away.

“That does not give a good experience for people to work in, or as a visitor, it is not an attractive proposition.”

Mr Ralls said it instead makes sense to focus on measures such as social distancing, limited entry numbers and hand sanitising. Pubs are not expected to be included in any future ‘passport’ plan.

Grace Goodlad, who runs the Bailey Head in Oswestry, said she believed the plan would be unworkable until the entire population had been offered a vaccine.

She said: “As an interim measure of trying to keep people safe it is not ridiculous but I would not want it to be turned into some kind of ID card measure under the table. Also, at the moment it seems completely unworkable because half the population has not had the chance to be vaccinated.”

MPs support Covid passport to get public events back up and running

Daniel Kawczynski

Proposals for a “Covid passport” scheme to attend major public events have been broadly backed by two county MPs.

Daniel Kawczynski, MP for Shrewsbury and Atcham, and Mark Pritchard, MP for The Wrekin, said they were largely in favour of such a scheme if it helped to safely reopen the economy.

But they also said care must be taken to ensure it does not add an extra barrier to businesses that have already suffered as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

A “Covid status certification” scheme is being developed by the Government to enable concerts and sporting matches to take place.

It would record whether people had been vaccinated, recently tested negative or had natural immunity after previously contracting the virus.

The government is also trialling other ways of holding mass events safely.

Nick Ralls, chief executive of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust

Sports minister Nigel Huddleston said the trials would be a learning experience, and added that no decisions had been made about processes or vaccine certification.

Mr Kawczynski said he supported the idea of some form of certification in principle.

“We have come through a very difficult time, we need to get back to some sense of normality as soon as possible,” he said.

“If they are going to play a part in giving back that initial confidence to everybody being able to return to crowded places, then it’s something I would very much support.”

Mr Kawczynski said this did depend, though, on which events and venues would fall under the passport scheme.

“We will be watching that very carefully, but in principle I support vaccine passports,” he said.

Mark Pritchard, MP for The Wrekin, said he broadly supported the idea of certification as the coronavirus restrictions are gradually eased.

Mark Pritchard

But he said it was important that steps were taken to protect businesses which had already suffered great hardship.

“Some proof of a vaccine or not posing a health risk to others will be required,” he said.

“But it should not be a new barrier for businesses trying to recoup some of their lost earnings because of the pandemic.”

Lucy Allan, MP for Telford, said providing vaccinations remained on track, a passport scheme would be unnecessary.

“Its understandable that Government is considering all options to help to fully open up the economy as soon as possible,” she said.

“If as seems likely, the adult population is fully vaccinated by the autumn, and the vaccines continue to be highly effective, then there would no reason to introduce domestic vaccine passports.

“In event that there are delays to the vaccination programme, or there is a marked vaccine hesitancy amongst young people, then Covid Status Passports to enable the re-opening of mass public events may be an option to consider.”

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