Covid pass now law in England despite Tory rebellion

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UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson faced a rebellion in his own party on Tuesday, as around 100 Conservative MPs refused to support a vote on Covid passes. The measure was nonetheless still passed and will come into effect this week.

The NHS Covid Pass, an app which shows proof on a mobile device of full vaccination or a negative Covid test, will now be required to enter nightclubs and other large venues or events across England. The measure was passed in the House of Commons on Tuesday with a 369 to 126 vote, with more than 90 Conservatives voting against the government’s motion. 

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In an address to the nation on Sunday, Johnson warned that a “tidal wave” of Omicron cases was headed England’s way, and the impact would undoubtedly be greater because it is wintertime. However, he failed to summon the full support of his own party during Tuesday’s vote, and subsequently faced his biggest rebellion yet from fellow Tories. The pass will be mandatory in the aforementioned circumstances from Wednesday. 

The prime minister has already weathered opposition from within his own party regarding pandemic-era restrictions. He has come under heavy scrutiny over recent reports that he sanctioned or attended a number of parties at Downing Street last Christmas, at a time when all social gatherings were banned in England. 

Those who spoke against the Covid pass had argued that the new steps intended to curb the virus were extreme and would infringe on civil liberties. One of the Tory rebels, backbencher Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, told the BBC the message implied in the rebellion meant a challenge to Johnson’s tenure as PM had “got to be on the cards” next year.  

Other measures passed in the Commons on Tuesday evening as part of the country’s ‘Plan B’ to combat coronavirus included an extension of mandatory masking at most indoor venues. This was voted against by 40 Conservative MPs. 

England has registered nearly 11 million positive Covid-19 cases, with recent figures trending upward. At least one person has died from the Omicron variant, Johnson confirmed on Monday, and health officials have said the new strain is accounting for around 20% of positive cases across the country at present. 

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