Vaccine passports: How will they work and will they be needed for the pub next week?

6 April 2021, 16:52 | Updated: 6 April 2021, 16:59

How could vaccine passports work in the UK?
How could vaccine passports work in the UK? Picture: PA Images
Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

Ministers have hinted at the introduction of vaccine passports in the coming months.

Ideas are being reviewed by a group led by Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove as a way of allowing society to return to normal, while minimising the risk of another wave of Covid-19 cases.

A recent Government review found that Covid certification "is likely to become a feature of our lives".

Ideas, from a paper certificate to a mobile app, are being explored by the UK Government
Ideas, from a paper certificate to a mobile app, are being explored by the UK Government. Picture: PA Images

How might vaccine passports work?

Vaccine passports, also known as 'Covid certificates', could be used to show whether people have been vaccinated, recently tested, or have "natural immunity", according to a Government paper.

A recent review found they could "potentially play a role" in settings such as theatres, nightclubs and mass events.

The idea of paper certificates, plastic ID cards and mobile phone apps have all been suggested.

Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi told LBC on Monday the Government is exploring all possible routes but no final decisions have yet been made.

"The task force is looking at the protocols and making sure they work for our citizens and with the operations," he said, "whether it's technology or a piece of paper, you'll be able to demonstrate if you need to travel to a country that needs your... test certificate."

Pilot events will take place from mid-April to trial a system to allow mass events, such as major football matches, to go ahead.

In the US, a new "Excelsior Pass" app has been launched by the New York state government, which people can use as proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test.

READ MORE: PM faces growing criticism after backing 'vaccine passports' for mass events

A new "Excelsior Pass" app, a digital pass that people can use as proof of vaccination, is being piloted New York
A new "Excelsior Pass" app, a digital pass that people can use as proof of vaccination, is being piloted New York. Picture: PA Images

Will we need them to go to the pub next week?

Certificates will not be required for when hospitality reopens outdoors on April 12, or when it reopens indoors in May - for now.

It is unclear if this could change when plans are finalised but Mr Zahawi suggested this would be unlikely and could have ethical implications.

He said: "Domestically, it does raise a number of ethical questions and as the Prime Minister outlined... next Monday in the beer garden, when you're sipping on that pint, you will not be asked for any form of certification."

READ MORE: UK medical regulator reviews use of AstraZeneca jab amid blood clot fears

Which countries require vaccine passports?

Ministers have conceded that holidaymakers will have to abide by other countries' rules around Covid certificates, with some asking for proof of either a vaccine or a recent negative test.

Mr Zahawi said: "Clearly a number of countries have indicated that they will require some form of certification as they do now with free-to-pass tests as we do with pre-departure certification."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday that vaccine passports are "going to be a fact of life" for overseas travellers in the years to come.

READ MORE: SAGE scientists warn of third Covid wave if lockdown eased as planned in May and June

Who supports and opposes vaccine passports?

Suggestions of stopping people from doing day-to-day activities if they have not been vaccinated has raised eyebrows among some but gained support from others.

At a press conference on Monday, the PM announced his support for the idea of "Covid status certification" as the best route to ensuring restrictions remain lifted.

He said: "On Covid status certification, as we prefer to call it, the most important thing to say to everybody listening and watching is there's absolutely no question of people being asked to produce certification or a Covid status report when they go to the shops or to the pub garden or to their hairdressers or whatever on Monday."

Downing Street has come under fire from a group of Conservative MPs and Labour, whose leader Sir Keir Starmer described the plans as "un-British".

The Liberal Democrats also voiced their opposition, claiming it proves the Government "doesn't trust" the public.

But with still a significant majority of MPs in the House of Commons, the PM would hope to be able to pass any laws surrounding passports or certificates.