Following Prime Minister Boris Johnson being under fire from his own MPs after stating that ‘vaccination passports’ may be something that the government will impose as lockdown begins to ease, we have now got confirmation that something will be put in place.
What is a vaccination passport?
In discussions about the safety of reopening things like hospitality venues – namely pubs – the PM had originally said that it “may be up to individual publicans” on whether they enforce rules on vaccination passports or proof of negative tests. However, in more recent news, the pubs have been left from the announcement. Instead, the transport minister has confirmed that the NHS app (an app that you can use to book appointments with your GP) will be used to confirm COVID status. This will include test status and vaccination status.
What has the response been?
When the idea was first announced, MPs were unhappy at the idea of the vaccination passports being used for pubs and events. Whilst this has yet to be confirmed, Boris Johnson did say they were being trialled through April and May.
This is despite many Tory MPs (and many members of the public) have said that this idea will not benefit the people. MP Steve Baker, for example, said that it is a “ghastly trap”. He spoke about how people advised against taking the vaccine, i.e. those with allergies or pregnant women, would suddenly be discriminated against and refused.
After a year in lockdown, everybody wants to come out of these harsh and isolating rules together, but this would instead separate people. Baker mentioned that certain groups of the public are hesitant to take up the offer and would subsequently be discriminated against.
Similarly, Conservative William Wragg also asked the Prime Minister if such legislation would be “compatible with a free society such as ours”, and Kate Nicholls, the Chief Executive for UKHospitality said:
“It’s crucial that visiting the pub and other parts of hospitality should not be subject to mandatory vaccination certification. It is simply unworkable, would cause conflict between staff and customers and almost certainly result in breaches of equality rules”.
So what do we know?
On Monday 5th April, PM Boris Johnson, Professor Chris Witty and Sir Patrick Vallance addressed the nation to discuss the next step as we come out of the third national lockdown. To our pleasure, they announced that non-essential retail and other services would be opened from April 12th. We are now just waiting for the 17th when indoor hospitality will hopefully be opened.
In the conference, Mr Johnson was also asked about and addressed the rumour of COVID passports. He said that he can guarantee we will not require identification for pubs or shops but that it would be an important step in coming out of lockdowns after May. He suggested that nightclubs, sports games, theatres, etc., may well be asked to use such identification. He acknowledged the opinions held against these passports but seems set on their usefulness.
The government are trialling the passports in several events over the next few months to find the most effective and efficient way of providing this evidence to those owning venues and others attending. They are also now employing NHSX to work on the app to find a way to include the COVID status section in a way to allow international travel.
That being said, the app is unlikely to be a quick job. Grant Shapps, the transport secretary has said that the work has already begun, but that it was unclear when we will be able to start travelling. Although he hopes in the ‘next couple of weeks’ he will be able to tell us which countries have made it into the ‘green list’ of countries we can visit. This will include countries where people won’t need to quarantine upon return, but they will need to test either side of their visit.
In the same announcement, a professor from Israel also spoke. Prof Ran Balicer said that the nation’s ‘green pass’ system, similar to that proposed here, has allowed people to access gyms, restaurants, theatres, cinema, sports, hotels and cultural events, all providing they showed proof of having received the vaccine or having recovered from the virus. He called the system a ‘tremendous success’, and explained that the country hasn’t seen ‘an outbreak’ in any of the areas using the system.