Vaccine passports: Michael Gove visits Israel to study country’s ‘green pass’

Cabinet Office minister also discusses possibility of travel corridor between two countries

Chiara Giordano
Tuesday 20 April 2021 21:25
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Michael Gove has travelled to Israel to study the country’s “green pass” scheme as the UK considers introducing coronavirus vaccine passports.

The Cabinet Office minister is being accompanied by England’s deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam on the trip, which Downing Street said was “purely Covid-related”.

They are expected to meet with Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, health minister Yuli Edelstein and foreign minister Gabi Ashkenazi during their visit.

The prime minister's official spokesman said: “They are seeing first-hand the work on certification that Israel has up and running over there as we continue the work that we are doing on certification as an option here.”

Israel, which has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, introduced its so-called “green pass” vaccine passport system last month.

It is used to gain entry into venues such as gyms, restaurants, theatres and cinemas, sporting venues, hotels and cultural events.

To be able to ask for a green pass, which can be either physical or displayed in a mobile phone app, a person must have had both doses of a coronavirus vaccine or have recovered from infection.

The scheme has faced criticism, however, with some claiming it creates a privileged “vaccinated class” of people in a new two-tier society.

If Israel’s system were ported over to England as-is, the most obvious effect would be to bar younger people from participating in activities their parents and others were allowed to enjoy freely, because the UK’s vaccine rollout has progressed on the basis of age.

Mr Gove is leading a review into whether vaccine passports are needed in the UK – and one option under consideration is to use the existing NHS smartphone app as a “Covid status certificate”, with a QR code providing a link to details of jabs and tests and a photo of the holder to prevent certificates being shared.

Prime minister Boris Johnson earlier this month said no decision had been made on whether to require certification domestically, but that it would not come into force during stages two and three of England’s lockdown relaxation on 12 April and 17 May.

The possibility of a “travel corridor” between the UK and Israel was also discussed during a meeting between Mr Gove and Israel’s foreign minister in Jerusalem on Tuesday.

Israel’s foreign ministry said both countries had made “great progress” in their vaccination programmes, opening up the “possibility of creating a green travel corridor”.

It gave no timeline for implementing such a measure, which it appears would only apply only to vaccinated travellers.

Israel last week said it would start allowing the limited entry of vaccinated tourist groups as of 23 May.

Additional reporting by agencies

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