Domestic vaccine passport plans set to be scrapped by government, report says

Government source claims idea of legal Covid status certificates is ‘dead’ after review

Conrad Duncan
Monday 31 May 2021 04:02
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Plans for the use of Covid-19 passports as a legal requirement for entry to large events this summer are set to be dropped, according to a report.

Officials working on the ongoing Covid-19 status certification review do not believe that the law will be changed to mandate their use in the UK, with one government source claiming that the plans were “dead”, The Telegraph reported.

“It’s not a case of ‘it’s finely balanced’. It’s not going to happen,” the source told the newspaper.

Ministers are reviewing data to decide whether to go ahead with the final stage of the government’s roadmap out of lockdown on 21 June, which would allow people to return to events such as football matches and music concerts in large numbers.

It has previously been suggested that entry to large events could be granted by presenting proof of a Covid vaccination, a recent negative test or a positive antibody test for the virus.

Although proof of vaccination has been accepted as a possible requirement for international travel, the use of Covid-19 passports domestically is a controversial issue that poses significant legal and ethical questions.

In April, the Equality and Human Rights Commission reportedly told the Cabinet Office that Covid status certificates or vaccines passports could be discriminatory as they risked creating a “two-tier society” in the UK.

A cross-party group of more than 70 MPs, including Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey and former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, also launched a campaign last month against domestic vaccine passports.

The MPs warned that certificates should not be used to “deny individuals access to general services, businesses or jobs”.

“International travel is a luxury but participating in your own community is a fundamental right,” Baroness Chakrabarti, a Labour peer, said.

“So internal Covid passports are an authoritarian step too far. We don’t defeat the virus with discrimination and oppression but with education, vaccination and mutual support.”

Advocates for the idea have argued that Covid status certificates could be used to open up the economy while preventing coronavirus outbreaks.

In response to The Telegraph’s report, a government spokesperson said: “The Covid status certification review is ongoing and no final decisions have been taken yet. The chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster will update parliament after recess.”

The newspaper reported that one reason for diminishing interest in the plans was the issue of how to fairly treat people who have medical exemptions from getting a Covid jab, such as those with allergic reactions.

It also noted that a final decision had not yet been made and that Michael Gove, who is overseeing the review, had not yet submitted his recommendations to Boris Johnson.

Mr Gove recently visited Israel as part of the review into Covid status certification to assess the effectiveness of the country’s “green pass” scheme which has been deployed following its rapid vaccination campaign.

Speaking to MPs on the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, the Cabinet Office minister said that a vaccine passports scheme could help large events, such as football matches, to resume at full capacity in the coming months.

“Certification may play a role in that if the alternative were to, for example, to continue with social distancing and other forms of restrictions such as crowd capacity limits,” Mr Gove said.

“So, in that sense, and that is just one example, the deployment of certification and the investment in that infrastructure would enable the economic and social life of the country to return more quickly and safely.”

However, he added that the costs and benefits of such a scheme were “finely balanced”.

Additional reporting by PA

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