Have your say: Should COVID vaccine passports become a 'feature of our lives'?

BRAZIL - 2021/04/05: In this photo illustration a symbolic COVID-19 health passport seen on a smartphone screen next to the medical syringes. (Photo Illustration by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
COVID-19 vaccination passports could be on their way to the UK. (Getty Images)

COVID-19 passports are “likely to become a feature of our lives”, according to a government document.

During a press briefing on Easter Monday, prime minister Boris Johnson did not rule out using such certificates to prove someone has had a vaccine.

And an eight-page Downing Street paper released on the same day showed the government is gearing up to introduce coronavirus passports, which could be used in theatres, nightclubs and pubs.

The government is going to trial the passports at upcoming events, including the FA Cup final and the World Snooker Championship.

Its documents reveal people who have tested positive for coronavirus within the past six months will potentially be considered to have natural immunity as part of the vaccine passport scheme.

The paper said: “Even without government intervention, COVID-status certification is likely to become a feature of our lives until the threat from the pandemic recedes.

“In the UK, businesses and other organisations are able to ask customers for proof of COVID status in order to access their premises, as long as they are compliant with equalities legislation.”

On Monday, Johnson confirmed shops, hairdressers and pub beer gardens will reopen from 12 April in England as planned, adding he intends to go for a pint on that date.

Minutes of a March 31 meeting of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) published on Monday showed that modelling suggested the 12 April measures “may only lead to a modest increase in hospitalisations and deaths” and were “unlikely to exert pressure on the NHS”.

However, the documents revealed Sage advisers warned that there could be resurgences in hospital admissions “of a similar scale to January 2021 after later stages of the road map” planned for May and June, when greater indoor social mixing will be permitted.

However, he said COVID passports will not be needed for the reopening of beer gardens next week or for pubs being accessible indoors from 17 May.

Johnson faces a battle with a number of his own Conservative MPs and the Labour Party over COVID passports.

More than 70 MPs, including 40 Conservatives, have signed a pledge to oppose the “divisive and discriminatory use of COVID-status certification”, suggesting the move could face defeat in the House of Commons.

The chairman of the powerful Tory backbench 1922 Committee, Sir Graham Brady, is one of those opposed to the passports.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth told BBC Breakfast on Tuesday: “I’m not going to support a policy that, here in my Leicester constituency, if someone wants to go into Next or H&M, they have to produce a vaccination certificate on their phone, on an app.

“I think that’s discriminatory.”

Former Conservative leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith told Times Radio further checks to go to the pub were a “diminution of your logical rights” while former chief whip Mark Harper warned their introduction would lead to a “two-tier Britain”.

Johnson said: “There are complicated ethical and practical issues as I think I said last time raised by the idea of COVID-status certification using vaccination alone.

“But obviously we are looking at it – we want to be going ahead in the next few weeks with some test events, some pilot events.”

Read more: What are vaccine passports and how might they work?

Watch: Prime minister rules out COVID passports under Phase 2