Sir Keir Starmer has given his most decisive view yet on plans for domestic “vaccine passports”, saying the proposed documents would go against the “British instinct”.
The passes could be used to allow only vaccinated people into certain venues.
“My instinct is that … if we get the virus properly under control, the death rates are near zero, hospital admissions very, very low, the British instinct in those circumstances will be against vaccine passports,” the Labour leader said in an interview with The Daily Telegraph.
Boris Johnson signalled last week he would not be opposed to such a measure, telling MPs it “may be up to individual publicans” to enforce checks.
But Sir Keir said it would be unfair of the government to leave it to pub landlords to decide if they should make such health enquiries, potentially causing people to feel ostracised.
“I think that this idea that we sort of outsource this to individual landlords is just wrong in principle,” he said.
Stressing that he wanted to find a cross-party consensus, and would only decide Labour’s official stance on the scheme once he had studied detailed proposals, Sir Keir said: “My instinct is that as the vaccine is rolled out, as the number of hospital admissions and deaths go down, there will be a British sense that we don’t actually want to go down this road.”
Vaccine passports for international travel are, however, inevitable, he added.
There is currently a review underway, being led by Michael Gove, to look into whether people should have to prove they have been vaccinated in certain social situations – like going to the pub – as lockdown measures ease.
The Liberal Democrats oppose the idea, as do some Conservative MPs.
The prime minister is due to give an update on Mr Gove’s review on Monday.
Sir Keir’s comments came as the UK’s daily Covid death rate continued to fall, with government figures on Wednesday showing an additional 43 people had died of the virus within 28 days of testing positive for it. It brings the nation’s total to 126,713.
Additionally, the number of second dose coronavirus vaccines administered in the UK in a single day exceeded first doses for the first time earlier.
But as this week’s hot weather, added to the easing of restrictions, encouraged thousands to parks and beaches, health secretary Matt Hancock reminded the public to “enjoy the sun but [to] do it safely”.
“We have come so far, don’t blow it now,” he tweeted late on Tuesday, after reports of huge gatherings – with the police in Nottingham banning alcohol in parks as a result.
Meanwhile, as the EU grapples with a third wave, Emmanuel Macron has ordered France into its third national lockdown in response to a surge of Covid-19 cases in the country.
In a televised address on Wednesday evening, the French president said: “We must make an additional effort. No region is safe from this virus. Everyone should limit their contacts with other people.”