Majority of public in Europe support Covid vaccine passports – survey

Vaccine passports enjoy substantial support across Europe, a YouGov survey suggests, as a fourth wave of infections prompts a growing number of countries to impose tougher restrictions on people who have not been fully vaccinated.

The annual YouGov-Cambridge Globalism Project suggests majorities in all 10 European countries surveyed back compulsory vaccine passes for large events, while in most, more people favour than oppose their use in cafes, restaurants and gyms.

The broad support for the constraint came despite the survey also finding that people are growing increasingly frustrated both with their governments’ performance in tackling the pandemic, and with Covid-related restrictions in general.

Facing record case numbers, Austria this week first imposed a “lockdown of the unvaccinated”, followed by a general lockdown – and a decision to make vaccines compulsory from February. Germany on Thursday announced plans to restrict leisure activities for the unvaccinated in places with high hospitalisation rates.

Greece said it would bar people without a vaccine pass from cinemas, theatres and gyms from Monday, the Czech Republic and Slovakia took similar steps, and Sweden will next month introduce a vaccine passport for events of more than 100 people.

Emmanuel Macron said the success of France’s health pass, which provides proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test and has been needed since summer to enter cafes, restaurants and cinemas, and take long-distance trains, meant the country should avoid having to lock down those who are not fully vaccinated.

Denmark, which abandoned its Covid pass as cases fell in April, reintroduced it this month. In the UK, Boris Johnson’s government has consistently rejected vaccine passports, although Scotland requires one for entry to nightclubs and large events.

The YouGov survey, of more than 26,000 people in 26 countries, found majorities of the public in Europe and around the world in favour of vaccine passports in their country as a requirement for large events or to travel in and out of the country.

Support for a pass showing proof of vaccination to attend large sporting events and concerts ranged from 57% of respondents in France to 59% in Germany, 62% in Italy and 64% in Spain and Britain, with only Poland (45%) falling below 50%.

Outside the EU, 51% of respondents in the US and 69% in Australia said they backed a vaccine passport for large events. The survey found similar high levels of approval for the use of vaccine passports to travel into and out of respondents’ home countries.

Support was lower, but still often substantial, for compulsory vaccine passports as a prerequisite for a range of other activities, including travelling on public transport, eating in restaurants, going to bars or cafes or doing indoor exercise at gyms.

In all but three – Denmark, Hungary and Poland – of the 10 European countries surveyed, more people said they were in favour of requiring vaccine passes on public transport than were opposed or unsure, with pluralities or majorities ranging from 41% in Germany and Britain to 56% in Italy.

A similar pattern emerged for eating in restaurants, with more people in favour of vaccine passes than against in eight of the 10 countries and only Hungary and Poland opposed. Percentages supporting the measure ranged from 41% in the UK and 50% in France, to 54% in Germany and 58% in Italy.

Levels of support were similar for mandatory vaccine passports to enter cafes or bars and exercise in indoor gyms, but slightly lower – generally ranging between 30% and 40% in most European countries – for supermarkets and clothes shops.

Results in the US broadly mirrored those in Europe, while respondents in Australia were often more enthusiastic. Of the 26 countries surveyed, Russia stood out with consistently low support for passports in nearly all cases except international travel.

Compared with last year, several countries showed a marked drop in the percentage who said their government was handling Covid well, including Germany (67% in 2020, 44% in 2021), Denmark (81%/74%), Italy (58%/48%), Greece (72%/42%), Hungary (60%/43%), Poland (43%/35%) and Australia (79%/52%).

A few countries bucked the trend, with approval levels staying roughly the same, such as France (37%/40%) and the UK (39%/41%), or increasing, such as South Africa (44%/56%). The US also had a slight increase from 34% to 39%, far from a “Biden bump”.

The survey also revealed growing frustration with the pace of return to normal life. Several countries experienced a sharp rise in those who thought their government was “putting too much priority on limiting the spread of the virus and not enough on allowing ordinary life to function”.

These included France, where the figure jumped from 19% in 2020 to 30% this year, Germany (21%/34%), Italy (17%/25%), Poland (23%/33%), Australia (13%/27%), the US (20%/29%), Japan (12%/24%), and Indonesia (11%/33%).

Several also showed a comparable rise in the number of people who thought their government’s response to the virus has been too restrictive on personal freedoms, such as France (23%/39%), Germany (27%/42%), Hungary (30%/44%), Britain (13%/25%), Australia (17%/34%) and the US (29%/36%).

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