Unvaccinated university students could be banned from lectures under new measures being considered
Unvaccinated university students could be banned from attending lectures in person when courses restart in September, after a minister refused to rule out making two Covid jabs a compulsory requirement.
Boris Johnson has been considering the rule in a bid to increase vaccine take-up, reports the Times, and on several occasions on Monday morning education minister Vicky Ford did not deny the measures were being considered.
"We obviously need to look at all different measures," said Ms Ford when asked about the reports by ITV News Political Reporter Shehab Khan.
She added: "I would really encourage those university students to have that double vaccination because that's the way that they will be able to have a more normal return to a more normal university life."
Number 10 said ministers were still looking at whether the measures should implemented when asked at a briefing for journalists on Monday.
'We want university students to get back to as normal a life as possible' says education minister
"You have heard what the PM has said before, specifically that the pandemic is not over," a No 10 spokesman said, "we are still looking at the scope for vaccination certifications."
Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner attacked the idea of using vaccine certificates in universities, saying they could stand in the way of education.
"It's a barrier for student's learning and I don't think we should be putting barriers in place," she said, adding that being vaccinated does not necessarily stop someone passing on the virus.
"We want to see ventilation in universities and schools and that we make sure that people can self-isolate and get access to free tests when they need it so that we can identify where the virus is and they we can isolate it," she said.
The Times had reported that the prime minister wants to use compulsory coronavirus vaccinations for students as a way to boost take-up rates among young people, with 18-30s lagging behind other age groups and many ending up in hospital.
Ms Ford said the measure is being considered because education is a priority for ministers and "we want the university students to be able to get back to as normal a life as possible".
"I'm encouraging my two university sons to get their second jabs before they go back to university and that's the way to get back that freedom."
Asked if there was concern about take-up of the vaccines in younger age groups, Number 10 said: "I think you continue to see more and more young people coming forward to receive the vaccine, both in terms of first doses and now second doses.
"Of course, we want to see more people come forward to receive it.
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"We would like to see everybody who is invited to come forward and receive the vaccination to do so. That's the message we continue to try and give to young people."
The Times reported that the prime minister made the suggestion, subject to medical exemptions, during a virtual meeting from his isolation at Chequers.
Asked about the reports by the BBC, Ms Ford said: "So obviously, I can’t comment on things that haven’t been announced.
"But one does need to look at every practicality to make sure that we can get students back safely and make sure that we can continue to prioritise education.”
And she told Times Radio: “We don’t want to go back to a situation where large parts of education were closed to many young people and children, and a key part of doing that is having that double-vaccinated population.
“So I think we need to continue to encourage our young people to step forward, have the vaccination, and that is the way that they can have that freedom and confidence that they’ll be able to have that full university life.”
But Robert Halfon, Conservative MP and chairman of the education select committee, told the newspaper: “This is wrong-headed.
“It’s like something out of Huxley’s Brave New World where people with vaccine passports will be engineered into social hierarchies — ie those who will be given a higher education and those who do not.
“Where does this stop? Do we fire apprentices who have not had the vaccine? Do we remove older students from FE (further education) colleges? Do we close down adult education courses where adults have not had the vaccine? I hope not.”
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