December 14, 2021 7.27 pm

MPs approve new COVID measures, including COVID passes, amid rebellion

COVID passes will come into effect from Wednesday

The government has voted in favour of new “Plan B” coronavirus rules to tackle growing Omicron cases, despite a strong backlash from its own MPs.

Downing Street’s plans include compulsory face masks, new rules on self isolation, mandatory vaccines for NHS staff and the introduction of COVID passports – the latter being a huge stumbling block for backbenchers.

Many said they would support some measures, but more than 70 were expected to rebel against the passes. Three of the votes – face masks, isolation and working from home – were retrospective. COVID passes will come into effect from Wednesday.

Three Lincolnshire MPs, Lincoln’s Karl McCartney, Gainsborough’s Sir Edward Leigh and South Holland’s Sir John Hayes ,were vocal critics of the plans and expected to vote against them. An official vote tally will be compiled later.

Prior to the vote, Prime Minister Boris Johnson called it a “balanced and proportionate” response to the new variant and said it would help with the government’s booster jab roll-out.

It came amid a backdrop of controversy for the Conservatives as news reports in recent days and weeks have focussed on parties and other events held at Downing Street last December, when restrictions were previously in place.

As MPs debated the vote, all African countries were also removed from the red travel list. Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the Omicron variant had “spread so widely across the world, the travel red list is now less effective”.

The measures, in more detail, are:

  • Vaccine-only COVID passports becoming mandatory for entry to nightclubs and venues of more than 500 indoors, 4,000 unseated outdoors and any venue of more than 10,000 capacity. A negative lateral flow test would also be sufficient. – Passed by 369 votes to 126
  • A retrospective vote on face masks becoming a legal requirement in most indoor venues – Passed by 441 votes to 41
  • Vaccinated people who come into contact with COVID cases will now be asked to take daily lateral flow tests instead of isolating – Passed without a vote
  • Compulsory COVID vaccines to be introduced for frontline NHS workers – Passed by 385 votes to 100

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