Covid pass starts in England despite biggest rebellion of Johnson era
Adults in England must now show a Covid pass to enter nightclubs, big sports matches and other large events - despite 100 Conservative MPs voting against the government's plans.
The new rules - which kick in today - require proof of double-vaccination, or a recent negative test, to enter certain venues.
MPs approved the measure in Tuesday's vote on England's new Covid rules.
Despite the revolt by Tory MPs, the plans passed thanks to Labour support.
The changes come as Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, said growth of the Omicron variant over the coming days would be "staggering", with infections currently doubling in less than two days in most UK regions.
She told a committee of MPs the new variant was "probably the most significant threat we've had since the start of the pandemic".
The Commons also backed - with smaller Conservative rebellions - the continuation of mandatory mask-wearing in most indoor settings, and compulsory vaccination for NHS workers in England.
The scrapping of self-isolation for fully vaccinated Covid contacts - in favour of daily lateral flow tests - passed unanimously without a vote.
The rebellion on Covid passes was by far the biggest since Boris Johnson took office.
At Prime Minister's Questions, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said Mr Johnson was "too weak to lead" and suggested that, after the rebellion, he had lost the "trust and the authority" to govern the country.
Mr Johnson said the government was taking a "balanced and proportionate" approach to Covid regulations and accused Labour of "playing political games".
Earlier, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told BBC Breakfast he hoped there would be no need for further Covid measures. "We've got in place now the measures that we believe will see us through to the new year," he said.
If there did turn out to be a need for additional restrictions, he was "certain" Parliament would be recalled, Mr Shapps said.
How to get a Covid pass
- Over-18s in England must prove they are double vaccinated against Covid-19, had a negative PCR or lateral flow test result within the last 48 hours, or have an exemption, to enter large events and venues
- You can get a pass digitally on the NHS app or the NHS website. You can also request a letter from the NHS to confirm your vaccine status, or show test results with a text message or email from NHS Test and Trace
- Passes based on test results expire after 48 hours, while vaccine passes need to be renewed in the app or on the website after 30 days
- The rules apply to nightclubs, indoor unseated venues with more than 500 people, unseated outdoor venues with more than 4,000 people, and any venue with more than 10,000 people
- Covid passport schemes are already in operation in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales
One Tory rebel, Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, said the scale of the revolt meant a leadership challenge to Mr Johnson had "got to be on the cards" next year.
And former Tory chief whip, Mark Harper MP, said: "You either listen and you respond and you do things differently - or you ignore what you have been told and you plough on regardless, and then this will happen over and over again."
But former cabinet minister Damian Green, who also rebelled, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that for him it was "absolutely not" a vote demonstrating a lack of confidence in Boris Johnson, adding that he would vote for tougher measures if he believed they would be effective.
The spread of the Omicron variant has prompted long queues for booster vaccinations and pressures on supplies lateral flow and PCR tests, although the government insists it has enough stockpiled.
West End shows have scrapped performances due to outbreaks, Premier League matches have been postponed and pubs and restaurants report a wave of Christmas bookings being cancelled.
Not just a slap on the wrist
Boris Johnson didn't lose. But no prime minister wants to feel they're losing the argument in much of their own party.
And the scale of the rebellion is even worse than predicted. Not just a slap on the wrist for Mr Johnson, but a very serious rejection of his plan.
Something that can't be dismissed, despite his own personal appeals to his ranks.
Prof Graham Medley from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine told BBC Radio 4's Today programme there was a "very real possibility" of the NHS being overwhelmed if Omicron infections spread to older age groups, as experience suggested they would.
Although vaccination and immunity through prior infections are higher now, reducing the risk to many individuals, the numbers in hospital could still get "very large", perhaps up to 2,000 a day, he suggested.
On Tuesday, the UK recorded 59,610 new Covid cases, the highest number since January, along with 150 deaths within 28 days of a positive Covid test.
The UK Health Security Agency said 633 further UK Omicron cases were reported on Tuesday, taking the total number of confirmed cases of the variant to 5,346. But the agency's modelling suggests the real figure may be much higher.
Meanwhile, a total of 513,722 booster and third doses were given across the UK on Monday.
In Scotland have been urged to limit socialising to three households at a time, with shops and hospitality venues to be told to reinstate physical distancing and protective screens.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the advice would not apply on Christmas Day and that plans should not be cancelled.
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