Dates revealed for Britain's first 'vaccine passport' events

4 April 2021, 08:07 | Updated: 5 April 2021, 15:47

Vaccine passports will be trialled for three football matches at Wembley Stadium
Vaccine passports will be trialled for three football matches at Wembley Stadium. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Boris Johnson is set to announce plans for a "vaccine passport" scheme to enable the safe return of mass gatherings and indoor events as lockdown restrictions ease across England.

A number of trial events are being planned over the coming months as the government considers ways to reopen venues such as football grounds and nightclubs without the requirement for social distancing measures.

The prime minister - who will set out more details on Monday - said ministers are doing "everything we can" to enable the return of large-scale events.

However, the proposals will be closely scrutinised by MPs with many deeply suspicious about using "Covid status certifications" domestically.

Dozens of Tory rebels have publicly and often vehemently declared their opposition to the measure and will likely oppose it if it is introduced in Parliament.

The first trial is due to take place on 16 April at the Hot Water Comedy Club in Liverpool, to be followed two days later by the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley.

However, Liverpool City Council has since said "the line which was briefed out yesterday by the government about Liverpool's events being included in the vaccine passports trials is incorrect".

Read more: 'Traffic light' system for holidays abroad unveiled, but 'don't book this summer'

Read more: Mandatory vaccine passports threat to British freedom, Tory MP fears

Other events where the scheme is to be tested include the World Snooker Championship at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield - running from 17 April to 3 May - and a mass participation run at Hatfield House on 24 and 25 April.

The pilots will culminate with the FA Cup Final, again at Wembley, on 15 May.

It comes as the government announced that more than five million people in the UK have now received their second dose of the coronavirus vaccine.

Officials will take into account three factors when developing the vaccine passport scheme: whether an individual has received a jab, has recently tested negative for the virus, or has "natural immunity" having tested positive in the previous six months.

The NHS is reportedly working on ways to provide people with the means to demonstrate their Covid status through "digital and non-digital routes".

Read more: UK tops five million second Covid jabs in 'another milestone' for rollout

Read more: PM says people cannot meet up indoors even if they are vaccinated

Its review is also looking at how ventilation and testing on entry could facilitate the safe return of audiences return to mass events and closed settings.

Ministers believe the scheme will be most useful in managing the risks where the are large numbers of people in close proximity, such as music festivals, sporting matches and nightclubs.

However, settings not requiring vaccine passports will include essential shops and public transport.

It will also not apply to businesses that are set to reopen over the coming weeks, such as pubs, restaurants and non-essential retail.

Officials are working with clinical and ethical experts to ensure there are "appropriate exemptions" for people who are advised not to take the vaccine and for whom repeat testing would be difficult.

Mr Johnson said: "We have made huge strides over the past few months with our vaccine programme and everyone in the country has made huge sacrifices to get us to this stage in our recovery from Covid-19.

"We are doing everything we can to enable the reopening of our country so people can return to the events, travel and other things they love as safely as possible, and these reviews will play an important role in allowing this to happen."

Writing in The Mail On Sunday, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: "We will examine the risks closely, plan to keep people safe, mitigate the dangers and, in doing, so we will be able to have spectators returning in full to events once more.

"Each successful pilot is a huge step forward towards the life we all miss sorely, every day.

The prime minister will also outline the government's approach for easing restrictions on foreign travel when its global travel task force reports on 12 April.

Ministers have made clear that the ban on foreign travel will remain in place until at least 17 May.

When it is finally lifted, it will be replaced by a risk-based "traffic light" system with red, amber and green ratings for countries around the world.

This will be based on a range of factors - including the proportion of the population that has been vaccinated, rates of infection, emerging new variants and the country's access to reliable scientific data and genomic sequencing.

Travellers arriving from countries rated "green" will not be required to isolate - although pre-departure and post-arrival tests will still be needed.

For those classed as "amber" or "red", the restrictions will remain as they are with arrivals required to isolate or enter quarantine.

Officials said it was still too early to predict which countries would be on which list and they continue to advise against booking summer holidays abroad.

A further social distancing review is looking into ways of allowing closer contact between friends and families, enabling greater capacity on public transport and reduce distancing requirements within venues and workplaces.