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by Alain Tolhurst
06 April 2021
UK Government to trial coronavirus vaccine passports

Boris Johnson - Image credit: Parliamentary Copyright/Open Parliament Licence v3.0

UK Government to trial coronavirus vaccine passports

The Prime Minister has confirmed that a trial of systems of ‘COVID status certification’ will begin in England later this month after a Whitehall review into their use concluded they could “allow some freedoms to be restored more safely”.

Boris Johnson confirmed people will have to either show they have been vaccinated, have had a recent negative test, or prove they have “natural immunity”, having had a positive test within six months.

The UK Government has ruled out using them in shops and on public transport, and the PM told a Downing Street press conference there was “absolutely no question” of people having to show a vaccine passport to go to the pub or hairdresser.

“On COVID status certification, as we prefer to call it, the most important thing to say to everybody listening and watching is there's absolutely no question of people being asked to produce certification or a COVID status report when they go to the shops or to the pub garden or to their hairdressers or whatever on Monday,” he said.

But the document released by the UK Government giving an update on its roadmap review does not rule out their use in hospitality in the long term.

“It is possible that COVID status certification could also play a role in reducing social distancing requirements in other settings which people tend to visit more frequently, for example in hospitality settings,” it says.

“However, the government recognises this has significant implications for businesses and their customers, so this will be further considered in consultation with industry, as part of the review of social distancing rules and taking into account the equalities and other impacts.”

The UK Government has said that as other countries are already developing their own certification systems, such as the ‘green pass’ in Israel and the ‘digital green certificate’ in the European Union, its hand has been forced into creating one for the UK, despite opposition from many MPs.

It also ruled out banning firms from asking people to prove their COVID status, arguing it “would in most cases be an unjustified intrusion on how businesses choose to make their premises safe”.

“It is therefore right that the government provides a means of easily demonstrating COVID status, in order to ensure UK citizens and residents are not denied opportunities to travel or attend certain venues or events,” the document reads.

Further details of how and when the system will be implemented will be released in due course, including how the science behind system of proving ‘natural immunity’ from antibodies works.

Work is also underway to use the existing English NHS app to allow people to display their COVID status securely, and there will be a paper version available for non-smartphone users.

The review, which is being led by Michael Gove, will continue taking evidence ahead of a final recommendation later this spring and once a number of pilot events have taken place.

The UK Government has said it “will ensure appropriate parliamentary scrutiny”, and will present interim findings to the House of Commons later this month.

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