England rugby fans will need valid NHS Covid Pass to attend autumn internationals

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England rugby fans will need valid NHS Covid Pass to attend autumn internationals - Tom Jenkins
England rugby fans will need valid NHS Covid Pass to attend autumn internationals - Tom Jenkins

Fans attending England’s autumn internationals must hold a valid NHS Covid Pass unless exempt, it has been confirmed.

The Rugby Football Union announced on Tuesday that the visits of Tonga, Australia and world champions South Africa next month would witness the use of so-called Covid passports.

The fixtures, set to be England’s first in front of a packed Twickenham since last year’s Six Nations, will see spot checks carried out to ensure adults attending are either fully vaccinated, have taken a negative test up to 48 hours earlier, or have natural immunity.

Welcoming back “capacity crowds”, the RFU said: “There will be more checks prior to entry than normal for everyone attending, whether as a fan or here to work. Please arrive early and allow more time than usual to access the stadium.”

England last played in front of a packed Twickenham on 7 March 2020 when they beat Wales 33-30 in a thrilling Six Nations game.

That was the final weekend before the tournament was effectively suspended due to the coronavirus crisis.

Every England match since was played behind closed doors until this summer, when they beat USA and Canada at Twickenham in front of 10,000 fans as the UK was coming out of a third national lockdown.

Those matches were staged in lieu of a summer tour to North America, and featured largely second-string line-ups due to the British & Irish Lions tour of South Africa.

Next month’s autumn internationals will be the first at Twickenham for three years, with last year’s cancelled and replaced by the postponed climax of the Six Nations and the Autumn Nations Cup, and 2019 being a World Cup year.

England’s games will also be their first against Tonga, Australia and South Africa since the World Cup, at which they beat the former two nations before losing to the Springboks in the final.

F1 medical driver could be banned for refusing to have vaccine

Formula 1 medical driver Alan van der Merwe was on Tuesday night facing being banned from the climax of the season after it emerged he had refused to be vaccinated against coronavirus.

Van der Merwe and anyone else unjabbed who would otherwise travel to a Grand Prix were in danger of being prevented from attending the final three races in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi.

Proof of vaccination is currently required in the former two countries, while it is also expected to be necessary for access to the paddock at the latter race.

That could see some of the hundreds of personnel that normally travel to a Grand Prix banned from attending unless granted an exemption to do so.

That would include any unvaccinated drivers, although a source told Telegraph Sport it was thought all of them had been double-jabbed.

Van der Merwe and F1 doctor Ian Roberts both missed Sunday’s Turkish GP after testing positive for Covid-19.

It was the second time Van der Merwe had contracted the virus and he took to Twitter to reveal he had not been jabbed.

“In Switzerland (I’m half Swiss) and other developed countries, prior infection counts as much as a vaccine,” he wrote.

“I trust that those countries know what they’re doing, and also respect countries’ more restrictive rules and not travel there.”

He added: “I am fully aware that I will potentially be less employable or that my freedom of movement will be restricted based on my choices.

“That I will not choose convenience over my own health does not mean I am making decisions out of selfishness. We all just want to be healthy.”

Professor Gabriel Scally, president of the Epidemiology and Public Health section of the Royal Society of Medicine and a member of the Independent SAGE group, condemned Van der Merwe’s comments, warning they would “undermine” vaccination programmes.

“The stimulus to the immune system from a course of vaccinations far exceeds the immunity gained from an infection,” he said.

“This driver has kind of proven that because he’s been infected twice.”

Prof Scally also said the risk of falling seriously ill from catching Covid-19 overwhelmingly outweighed the risk of side-effects from the jab.

He added: “If everyone is vaccinated except you, you’re perfectly safe, but you’re also perfectly selfish.”

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