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Government takes first steps towards vaccine passports

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Written by: Emma Lunn
16/03/2021
The UK government has launched a review into whether ‘Covid-status certification’ could play a role in reopening the economy, reducing restrictions on social contact and improving safety.

The ‘call for evidence’ is the first serious sign that ministers are considering a scheme where Brits would have to prove their Covid status to go to certain places or do particular things.

The government had previously dismissed the idea of vaccinated people needing to prove they have had the jab to enter places such as pubs and theatres, with several ministers branding the idea ‘discriminatory’.

The call for evidence is asking for views on the plans from organisations and individuals with relevant expertise, as well as those it would impact.

Under the proposed scheme, Covid-19 status certification could involve using testing or vaccination data to confirm in different settings that people have a lower risk of transmitting Covid-19 to others.

Such certification would be available both to vaccinated people and to unvaccinated people who have been tested.

The government will assess to what extent certification would be effective in reducing risk, and its potential uses in enabling access to settings or relaxing Covid-secure rules.

The review, which is being led by Michael Gove, is considering the ethical, equalities, privacy, legal and operational aspects of a possible certification scheme, and what limits, if any, should be placed on organisations using certification.

Gove said: “This review into Covid-status certification is an important part of our plan to help reopen the country and return to normal. However, we recognise that there are complex issues of ethics, privacy and inclusion that need to be fully considered. That is why I want to get as many views as possible on Covid-status certification and its potential implications to help inform the review.”

The government has committed to concluding its review into Covid-status certification ahead of step four of the four-stage lockdown easing plan, which will happen no earlier than 21 June.

The call for evidence is open for two weeks from 15 March to 29 March. You can submit your response by email to: certification.cfe@cabinetoffice.gov.uk

A scheme for domestic Covid certification would likely be separate to international schemes for vaccine passports. Some countries, such as Cyprus, have already said vaccinated Brits could enter free of restrictions.

British Airways is planning to introduce a scheme where people who have had both jabs will be able to register their status on BA’s smartphone app. Last month, BA’s owner IAG called for digital health passes to allow international travel to resume.

Some companies have already taken the controversial step of announcing that they will only hire workers who have had the jab.

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