The government's proposed Covid certification system could amount to unlawful indirect discrimination, a watchdog has advised.
Plans to open up society with the use of coronavirus status 'passports' risk “unlawful discrimination” against people from disadvantaged or ethnic minority backgrounds by restricting access to jobs and services, according to the government’s independent equalities watchdog.
A Covid certificate system is currently under development and could be used to access settings such as theatres, nightclubs and mass events once restrictions lift.
The Guardian reported that a submission from the Equality and Human Rights Commission said they could be a “proportionate” way of easing restrictions, but risk creating a “two-tier society”.
The government is also considering making vaccination of people working in care homes with older adults mandatory.
The Department of Health and Social Care is launching a five-week consultation on the issue to seek views on the proposal, any potential impact it could have on staffing and safety, how it could be implemented and who could be exempt, with a decision expected in the summer.
It comes as new analysis revealed Covid-19 rates have dropped below 100 cases per 100,000 people in all local areas of UK for the first time since September.
It is almost a complete turnaround from how the data looked three months ago when the second wave of coronavirus was at its peak.
The plunge in Covid-19 case rates reflects the success of the lockdowns imposed across the UK just after Christmas, which helped limit the circulation of the virus as well as drive down levels of infection within the community, while the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines is also likely to have played a role.
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Denmark becomes first country to ban AstraZeneca jab
Denmark has become the first country in the world to ban the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine over its possible link to extremely rare cases of blood clots.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) and European medicines watchdog reviewed the possible risk and despite declaring a 0.000095% chance of a developing a clot the Scandinavian nation has ditched the jab completely, the Mirror reports.
Denmark was also the first country to suspend the AstraZeneca jab in March amid the concerns.
Two cases of thrombosis, one fatal, were linked to vaccinations in the country after more than 140,000 people received a jab.
It comes after the European Union’s drug watchdog said the risk of dying from Covid-19 was “much greater” than the risk of mortality from rare side effects of the jab.
Open windows to reduce transmission indoors - expert
Improving indoor ventilation, such as by opening windows, can help reduce coronavirus transmission, Dr Julian Tang said.
He told Sky News:
“If you think about it, if you burn your toast in the kitchen, if you open the windows and doors, the back door, it clears very quickly.
“So you keep the windows open even halfway most of the time, then you can improve that ventilation rate in the indoor area and that reduces the overall airborne concentration that you can actually then reduce the risk of transmission from.
“So I think this is a really kind of addition to what people are doing, the social distancing, the masking.
“But if you’re indoors having a drink or eating, you can’t mask, you can’t maintain social distance, so the ventilation becomes much more important precautionally.”
Improving a building’s indoor ventilation to help tackle coronavirus transmission will cost money but will help maintain a degree of safety over time, he said.
“Improving the ventilation is not an overnight thing and a lot of places you can’t open the windows or keep the doors open easily because of security issues.
“But if the concept is there, if the kind of will is there, to improve ventilation over time, those improvements will come in gradually.”
“Improving infrastructure and buildings is a very difficult thing and it costs money.”
'Long road to recovery' for many businesses following reopening
Chief executive of UK Hospitality, Kate Nicholls, has told Sky News that businesses face a 'long road to recovery'.
She said businesses will "be open but not trading at a profit" until restrictions are lifted in full.
‘Hands, face, space’, should really be ‘space, space, hands’ - expert
Assessing the “garlic-breath distance” can indicate whether someone is close enough to another person for coronavirus transmission to occur, an expert has said.
Dr Julian Tang is a consultant virologist at the Leicester Royal Infirmary and author of a new study published in the British Medical Journal that urges governments and health leaders to “focus their efforts on airborne transmission”.
Appearing on Sky News he was asked if a previous focus on hand washing and sanitising was “wrong”.
Dr Tang said:
“I think the emphasis is wrong. So the message ‘hands, face, space’, we think should be really ‘space, space, hands’.
“The way this virus transmits is really through conversational distance, within one metre.
“When you’re talking to a friend or sharing the same air as you’re listening to your friend talking, we call it the garlic-breath distance.
“So if you can smell your friend’s lunch you’re inhaling some of that air as well as any virus that’s inhaled with it.
“And this is why we say that masking is fine, social distancing is fine, but the indoor airborne environment needs to be improved and that can be done with ventilation.”
Covid certification scheme may be unlawful discrimination - watchdog
Plans for a Covid certification system, which could be used to access settings such as theatres, nightclubs and mass events, are currently in development.
While they could be a “proportionate” way of easing restrictions, they risk “unlawful discrimination” by restricting access to jobs and services, according to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).
According to a submission seen by the Guardian, the EHRC said Covid-status certificates risk excluding groups among whom vaccine take-up is lower – including migrants, those from minority ethnic backgrounds and poorer socio-economic groups – from access to essential services and employment.
“There is a risk of unlawful discrimination if decisions taken in this process disadvantage people with protected characteristics who have not received, or are not able to receive, the vaccine, unless they can be shown to be justified,” it said.
“Any mandatory requirement for vaccination or the implementation of Covid-status certification may amount to indirect discrimination, unless the requirement can be objectively justified.”
On mandatory vaccines for care workers, the watchdog said plans may not be lawful, and that employers should not be allowed to hire workers on a “no jab, no job” policy until all young people had been offered a vaccine.