Senior ministers have frequently appeared to dismiss the idea of introducing vaccine passports in the UK with Nadhim Zahawi, the Government’s vaccines minister, labelling them “discriminatory.”
The use of Covid status certificates could mean venues or businesses could deny someone access if they cannot provide evidence that they have been vaccinated against or tested negative for coronavirus.
The Prime Minister confirmed on Monday that a study into the use of vaccine and testing certificates will be one of four reviews conducted as part of easing the current restrictions.
Outlining each review in the House of Commons, Mr Johnson said: “The third review will consider potential role of Covid status certification in helping venues to open safely.
“We are mindful of the many concerns surrounding the exclusion, discrimination and privacy.”
Speaking later at a Downing Street press conference, he acknowledged there were ethical issues around vaccine certificates.
He said: “There are clearly some quite complex issues, some ethical issues, issues about discrimination and so on, to what extent can governments either compel or indeed forbid use of such certification.
“I think all that needs to be gone into so we are going to have a review of the whole issue before we come to it.”
But he added: “There may well be a role for certification but we just need to get it right.”
The four reviews, which will include looking at the current social distancing measures and how to increase international travel, are investigating matters upon which ministers do not currently feel they have enough data or information.
The findings of the vaccine passport probe are hoped to be available before stage four of the lockdown easing on June 21 is reached – the earliest date by which ministers hope all restrictions can be lifted.
Officials have admitted that the review, especially into allowing those who have been vaccinated to have increased rights, poses both moral and ethical questions, as well as practical difficulties.
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.
Campaign group Liberty warned that vaccine passports could create a “two-tier society”.
Head of policy and campaigns Sam Grant said: “Ministers have flip-flopped on the idea of immunity passports for months before quickly backing out again when faced with immense backlash.
“Renaming them ‘status certificates’ does nothing to address the fact that they would create a two-tier society where some people can access support and freedoms, while others are shut out – with the most marginalised among us hardest hit.”