What are the plans for Covid vaccine passports?

PA Reporters
·3-min read

As Prime Minister Boris Johnson faces a battle to introduce “vaccine passports” for people to demonstrate their Covid-19 status, here is a look at the plans.

– What are they?

Vaccine passports, or Covid status certificates, could potentially be used to show whether people have been vaccinated, recently tested, or have “natural immunity”, having tested positive in the previous six months, according to a Government paper on the work of the lockdown taskforces.

The eight-page report said Covid status certification, which could be a mobile phone app or a paper document, “is likely to become a feature of our lives until the threat from the pandemic recedes”.

– Why do we need them?

They are being looked at by a panel led by Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove as a way of allowing society to return to normal while minimising the risk of another wave of cases.

– Where would they be used?

A Government review into “Covid status certification” found they could “potentially play a role” in settings such as theatres, nightclubs and mass events, and might also be used in pubs and restaurants to reduce social distancing restrictions.

Ministers insist Covid status certificates will never be required for essential services such as supermarkets, public transport or GP surgeries but could be useful for managing the risks at music festivals, sporting matches and nightclubs.

The Government has announced pilots to test the use of Covid certificates for mass gatherings from sporting events to nightclubs.

Spectators at events over the coming weeks, such as the World Snooker Championship at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield and the FA Cup final at Wembley on May 15, will be required to be tested for Covid-19 both before and after the event.

They will not, however, have to show proof of vaccination for now.

– Will I need a vaccine passport to go to the pub?

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said that coronavirus certificates will not be required for when hospitality reopens outdoors next week, or when it reopens indoors in May.

But it is unclear if this could change when the plans are finalised.

– What about for foreign travel?

The Prime Minister has previously indicated that vaccine proof will be likely for those wanting to travel internationally.

Boris Johnson said on Tuesday that several other countries are also looking at “the role of vaccination passports for overseas travel”, which is “going to be a fact of life, probably”.

– When could vaccine passports be introduced?

Mr Johnson has stressed that the Government has not finalised any plans, with the review expected to be completed in the summer.

Ministers have said any proposal would need to be voted through by Parliament, which could prove tricky as Labour, along with at least 40 Tory MPs, have already voiced concerns about the measure.

– What are the pros and cons?

Vaccine passports could help the country get back to normal, allowing people to more easily show their Covid status.

It is hoped they could enable large events to go ahead safely, reduce the need for social distancing and allow international travel.

But Mr Zahawi said the use of coronavirus certificates domestically raises “difficult ethical questions” and the plans have been criticised by some.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth told BBC Breakfast that Labour is “very sceptical” and wants more details about how they would work.

He suggested it would be “discriminatory” to require someone to produce a vaccination certificate as a condition of entry to shops, such as Next or H&M.

The proposal also faces opposition from Tory MPs, including the chairman of the powerful backbench 1922 Committee, Sir Graham Brady.

Senior Tory Mark Harper, chairman of the lockdown-sceptic Covid Recovery Group, warned that Covid status certification “will lead to a two-tier Britain”.

Dr Mike Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organisation’s health emergencies programme, said vaccine passports for travel could affect fairness across the globe.

He told a briefing: “If you don’t have access to a vaccine in a country then you effectively become isolated as a country as vaccine passports kick in.”