Ministers do not rule out use of domestic vaccine passports

·2-min read
No Vaccine Passports protest sticker on a Vaccine Centre billboard (PA Wire)
No Vaccine Passports protest sticker on a Vaccine Centre billboard (PA Wire)

Ministers have not ruled out the possibility of making the use of so-called Covid vaccine passports compulsory if England faces a “difficult situation” this winter.

A Government review published on Monday said that health certificates will not be mandatory for entry to venues such as pubs, theatres and stadiums.

However, individual businesses will be permitted to use them.

Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove was tasked with investigating the potential use of certificates showing negative tests or immunity gained through vaccination or infection.

The review found that while “there would be a public health benefit” it would currently be outweighed by the negatives, such as the burden on those who have not received two jabs.

Their mandatory use will instead be kept “under consideration”, while the go-ahead for the NHS app to demonstrate status was approved from Step 4 of the plans to ease lockdown, which is expected on July 19.

“The Government believes that to ban certification in domestic settings would, in most cases, be an unjustified intrusion on how organisations choose to make their premises safe,” the review said.

“Essential settings should not use certification, but others can decide to use it at their own discretion in compliance with legal obligations.”

It did not rule out their later use as a means to prevent closures to the economy and restrictions on social lives being reimposed if the coronavirus situation drastically worsens.

The review said “it is possible that certification could provide a means of keeping events going and businesses open if the country is facing a difficult situation in autumn or winter”.

MPs on the Conservative Party’s libertarian wing have been particularly opposed to their introduction, raising concerns over civil liberties. Labour has also voiced opposition.

The review noted that “many ethicists saw a clear case for certification due to the potential to help safeguard the health and wellbeing of people” and to improve their feeling of safety.

But others raised issues about the potential to “exacerbate existing divisions and inequalities issues”.

An NHS Covid Pass will be acquired 14 days after being fully vaccinated, having a negative Covid test within the past 48 hours or natural immunity lasting for 180 days from a positive test.

Under 18s would be exempted from having to display their status, as their vaccination is not currently recommended.

The pass can already be used for international travel, with some countries requiring vaccination proof on arrival.

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