UK

UK government reviews Covid passports to speed up pubs reopening

Coronavirus passports to go to the pub? Ministers to investigate whether to bring in ‘Covid status certification’ to help speed up the reopening of hospitality industry and workplaces

  • PM said review will look at whether to introduce ‘Covid status certification’ 

Vaccine passports could be required to enter pubs, restaurants and other venues after Boris Johnson announced a review into their use.

He said that one of four official investigations will look at whether to introduce ‘Covid status certification’, despite Downing Street insisting for weeks that such domestic documents would not be supported.

It was one of four reviews announced by the Prime Minister in the Commons today.

Announcing the move to MPs Mr Johnson said the review would examine whether the certificates would be useful ‘in helping venues to open safely – but mindful of the many concerns surrounding exclusion, discrimination and privacy’.

Senior ministers have frequently appeared to dismiss the idea of introducing vaccine passports in the UK.

Nadhim Zahawi, the Government’s vaccines minister, labelled them ‘discriminatory’ as ministers looked to persuade the public to take up the offer of a jab without the threat of being barred from entering hospitality or other venues if they do not get inoculated against Covid-19.

He said that the work will look at whether to introduce ‘Covid status certification’, despite Downing Street insisting for weeks that such domestic documents would not be supported.

The roadmap itself states: ‘Covid status certification involves using testing or vaccination data to confirm in different settings that people have a lower risk of transmitting COVID-19 to others.

‘The Government will review whether Covid-status certification could play a role in reopening our economy, reducing restrictions on social contact and improving safety. 

‘This will include assessing to what extent certification would be effective in reducing risk, and the potential uses to enable access to settings or a relaxation of Covid-Secure mitigations. 

‘The Government will also consider the ethical, equalities, privacy, legal and operational aspects of this approach and what limits, if any, should be placed on organisations using certification. 

‘It will draw on external advice to develop recommendations that take into account any social and economic impacts, and implications for disproportionately impacted groups and individuals’ privacy and security. 

‘The Government will set out its conclusions in advance of Step 4 in order to inform the safe reopening of society and the economy.’

Officials recognise that there are moral and ethical questions as well as practical ones for any such move, which has been highly controversial in Westminster.

As well as looking at whether vaccines could enable people to return to a sense of normality, the review will also look at the viability of allowing people to show evidence of a negative test to gain access to a venue.

Former prime minister Tony Blair has, through his institute, regularly called for vaccine passports to be used to reopen society.

The Health Secretary Matt Hancock has previously said people will be able to request their vaccination record from their GP to allow them to travel to countries that required proof of inoculation status but that the UK had ‘no plans’ to roll them out domestically.

A research programme will use pilot schemes involving testing and other measures to run events with larger crowd sizes. 

International travel rules will also be reviewed, with May 17 targeted as the earliest possible date for a foreign holiday.

A further piece of work to conclude by June 21 will examine social distancing requirements – including hugs with friends and relatives – the use of face masks and requirements to work from home.

The measures are expected to be put to a Commons vote before the House rises for Easter in late March.

Mr Johnson continued: ‘In view of these cautious but, I hope, irreversible changes, people may be concerned about what these changes mean for the various support packages for livelihoods, for people and the economy.

‘So I want to reassure the House we will not pull the rug out – for the duration of the pandemic the Government will continue to do whatever it takes to protect jobs and livelihoods across the UK.

‘And the Chancellor will set out further details in the Budget next Wednesday.’

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