RIGHT MOVE: Plan B measures ‘proportionate’ says sports minister
Sports minister Nigel Huddleston believes the Covid Plan B measures set to come into force in England on Wednesday are “proportionate” but refused to rule out reducing capacities in future.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the Plan B measures last week, which include a requirement to provide proof of full vaccination or a recent negative test to enter sports venues holding more than 10,000 people.
That step was taken after the emergence of the highly transmissible omicron variant of Covid-19, which it was feared had the potential to overwhelm the NHS if nothing was done to curb the spread.
Since then Johnson has warned in a televised address of a “tidal wave” of infections related to the new variant, leading to concerns that even more stringent measures would need to be implemented at sports venues.
Huddleston said on Tuesday: “What we are doing is focusing on the situation at the moment and that we’re carefully monitoring the situation.
“The Prime Minister said yesterday that we will have to deal with this Covid situation as the facts tell us, so I can’t rule anything out. But we need to deal with the situation as it is at the moment, and we believe the measures brought in place now are proportionate.”
Stadiums have been free to operate at full capacity since final Covid restrictions were lifted in July.
The introduction of the so-called vaccine passports has been criticised by members of Huddleston’s own party, with Conservative MP likening them to Nazi Germany.
Their value has also been questioned because of the existing vaccines’ limited effectiveness against the new variant, and uncertainty over to what extent vaccines reduce transmission.
Huddleston said: “What we’re trying to do with the measures in Plan B is reduce transmission and we do know that people being vaccinated and boosted and/or lateral flow testing can help with that.
“So the key message is get boosted, get vaccinated because you’re helping yourself and helping others and reducing the risk of transmission. We do believe they will help with what we’re trying to do.”
Huddleston said it was possible not every spectator would be checked on entry, saying local authorities could give clubs permission to use spot checks only where there were “pinch points” or sudden crowding.
“We recognise we need to be practical and sensible, so there could be occasions where it gets a bit overcrowded (and) those pinch points could occur, so we want that flexibility,” he said.
“But also many clubs have got experience already – many Premier League clubs voluntarily do Covid certification.”
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