Vaccine passports will show ‘natural immunity’ for people who have had Covid

·3-min read
Evidence suggests natural resistance to Covid after an infection could last years - Oli Scarff/AFP via Getty Images
Evidence suggests natural resistance to Covid after an infection could last years - Oli Scarff/AFP via Getty Images

Vaccine passports on the NHS app will automatically include a user's "natural immunity" to Covid for six months after contracting the virus without the need for an antibody test under a new trial.

The scheme will see 180-day natural immunity certificates issued to people taking part in the Government's latest large event trials who have tested positive for Covid this year, even if they have not had an antibody test.

Officials hope the scheme could eventually expand the number of people who could use vaccine passports to prove their immunity if they are approved for domestic use in the UK.

From June 21, fans attending one of the Government's approved large event trials – such as Wimbledon or Euro 2020 matches – who have tested positive since the start of this year will have a green badge on the app.

Evidence suggests natural resistance to Covid after an infection could last years, but most scientists agree patients will have at least six months of immunity.

People taking part in the trial who register new Covid infections with the NHS will still have to isolate for 14 days, during which time they may be infectious, before the app turns green for six months to show they have antibodies, The Telegraph understands.

The natural immunity pilot comes as part of the Government's Events Research Programme, which is trialling various options for Covid passports when large crowds return on July 19.

The Government has announced that up to 20 events will be part of the trial scheme, which will see Wembley filled to half capacity for the final four games of Euro 2020, while Wimbledon's Centre Court will be filled to capacity for the men's and women's singles finals.

Silverstone will host larger crowds than allowed under the national regulations for the British GP on July 18, while Andrew Lloyd Webber's new production, Cinderella, has been mooted by Boris Johnson as a possible theatre test for Covid passports.

Officials are using the trials to assess how to reopen events safely by measuring the impact of attendees being indoors or outdoors and seated or standing.

Although ministers have signed off the use of vaccine passports for international travel, their domestic use is controversial. Boris Johnson has ordered a review into the scheme, chaired by Michael Gove, which will report before the last stage of easing of lockdown, now due to take place on July 19.

It is understood any eventual passport is likely to function through the NHS app and could include information about a user's vaccines and test status, although it could also include natural immunity for six months if the new trials are successful.

Private businesses are free to ask their customers to prove vaccine status, but any attempt to mandate vaccine passports in law is likely to meet opposition from MPs on both sides of the House of Commons.

On Tuesday, Mr Gove said that while the delay to stage four of the roadmap from June 21 to July 19 was "regrettable", it did allow officials more time to test vaccine passports before their possible rollout.

"Ultimately, we want to be in a position where people can use the app for international travel and where domestically we can open up completely," he said. "But these trials [...] will help us understand what the risks and benefits are."

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