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Newbury MP Laura Farris backs vaccine passports

But Mrs Farris says the final decision should be down to businesses

NEWBURY MP Laura Farris has backed the introduction of vaccine passports or proof of a negative coronavirus test to get into venues.

Reports in the national press suggest vaccine ID cards could be introduced as the country emerges from a third lockdown, with suggestions that a vaccine passport could be needed to enter theatres, cinemas and sports and music events after June 21.

Speaking to the Newbury Weekly News, Mrs Farris said she was in favour of introducing the measures as a way to prevent the virus from spreading through venues.

With the vast majority of over-50s now vaccinated in West Berkshire and rapid lateral flow tests widely available, she added that she didn’t want to squander progress made in the district and beyond.

The Conservative MP said: “I think this is going to make me really unpopular, but I’m quite supportive of them.

“Whilst I don’t think they should be too onerous, if it’s the case that premises feel they’d feel safer doing it, I don’t think there’s much the Government can do to stop it.

“Therefore I think it would be strange if the Government was to be obstructive on this issue.

“Setting some form of requirement – whether that’s vaccination or for younger people a clear test – doesn’t seem to me to be disproportionate if you’re doing anything which engages significant numbers of people who may not be socially distanced in a perfect way to avoid the virus coming back again.”

However Mrs Farris – who was elected in December 2019 – said she would leave the final decision to the businesses rather than a Government mandate.

She added: “At this point in time, I think it should be down to business discretion.

“That would give people the freedom of choice that lies at the heart of this.”

In West Berkshire, around 53 per cent of all adults have received their first vaccination.

The Newbury Vaccination Centre, based at Newbury Racecourse, announced on Saturday it had completed its 35,000th vaccination.

Speaking on Tuesday, West Berkshire Council leader Lynne Doherty (Con, Speen) said she would prefer not to see a requirement for passports or negative tests introduced.

She said: “I think it’s a really difficult one, but it’s not something I’m in favour of.

“I think we have to keep reminding people that the social distancing rules still apply.

“As we open up I want people to be able to support their businesses rather than have passports.

“Young people haven’t had the opportunity to have the jab and won’t be able to support hospitality and I don’t think that’s necessarily fair.

“For tests, it only shows that you’re positive or negative at that moment, so I can’t see how it would be workable.”

Across the district, publicans are waiting to see if passports or proof of a negative test will be a requirement for their customers as they prepare to reopen once again.

Both Stella Coulthurst at The White Hart Inn in Hamstead Marshall and Ian Batho, of Cow and Cask in Newbury, said they saw pros and cons and were waiting for more Government guidance.

Ms Coulthurst said: “I’ve followed the debate and I can see both sides, but they’re both such powerful pros and cons.

“You can see at one level that it’s a very safe thing to do, but the complexity of it is difficult.

“What do you do if one person has forgotten their passport, and another person has some reason why they shouldn’t have the vaccine – how do you treat them differently?”

Mr Batho said: “I can see both sides of the argument.

“It wouldn’t necessarily affect business, it could work the other way.

“You’re limiting some people who haven’t had a vaccine, but it might give other people more confidence in coming out if they knew everybody in the pub had had the vaccine.”

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