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COVID-19: What are 'vaccine passports' and how might they work in the UK?

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected on Monday to confirm for the first time that a system of Covid certification is being developed to allow people to return to sporting matches, theatres and other major public events, as well as travelling overseas for holidays.



The Government defines Covid certificates or passports as something that can show you have had either a vaccine, a recent negative test, or antibodies from having the infection within the last six months.

Mr Johnson is not expected to announce significant detail about the plan on Monday, but is rumoured to be preparing to rule out using passports in certain settings, such as hospitals, GP surgeries, public transport and supermarkets.

How could a vaccine passport work?

The Government could turn one of the NHS smartphone apps into a digital Covid passport or run a separate app, allowing the public to carry around a proof of vaccination, a test, or antibodies.

There is also discussion about a non-digital version of a passport for those who do not have a smartphone.

The passport is expected to consider three factors: vaccination, a recent negative test, or antibodies.

This review into Covid certificates is being led by Michael Gove, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

How will it be trialled?

The EFL Cup Final and an FA Cup Semi-Final are among a range of pilot events hosting audiences as part of the government’s plan to test out Covid certification, alongside social distancing, ventilation and test-on-entry protocols.

The Government said attendees will not be permitted entry if they have symptoms of Covid-19. They will also have to provide contact details of everyone in their group for NHS Test and Trace.

Liverpool City Council said that the events in Liverpool, including a club night on April 30, will not involve passports.

The full list of events are as follows:

April

16 - Hot Water Comedy Club, Liverpool - 300 people (indoor seated)

18 - FA Cup Semi-Final - Wembley - 4,000 people (outdoor seated)

17 - 3 May - Snooker World Championships - Sheffield Crucible Theatre - up to 1,000 people a day (indoor seated)

23-25  - Luna Outdoor Cinema, Liverpool - 1,000 people (outdoor seated)

24-25 - Three 10k runs -  Hatfield Park - 3,000 people and up to 3,000 spectators at each event (outdoor, mass participation run)

25 - Carabao Cup Final, Wembley -  8,000 people (outdoor, seated)

29 - Business Event, Liverpool - 1,000 people (indoor, seated and mixing)

30 - Circus Nightclub, Liverpool - circa 3,000 people (indoor club night)

May

15 - FA Cup Final, Wembley, London - 21,000 people (outdoor, seated)

Senior government sources have told The Telegraph that the system will take "months, not weeks" to develop, raising the prospect that the passports will not be available until the autumn.


What concerns have been raised? 

Writing in The Telegraph, Mr Gove said there were "a host of practical and ethical questions we have to answer before we can consider a wider roll-out".

"For health reasons, some people cannot be vaccinated, so we have to ensure access to certification through testing or natural immunity as an alternative.

"We must not exclude those who do not have a smartphone, so we’re exploring paper-based complements to the app. Privacy and data security must be watertight."

Mr Gove said nightclubs and other venues already "police entry". "Some may well want to embrace any tool available to signal to visitors they are at low risk of infection. So we are looking closely at how we can guarantee fairness."

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said vaccine passports would be against the "British instinct" and the Liberal Democrats and scores of Tory rebels oppose the plans.  

Ed Davey, writing in The Telegraph, said vaccine passports could see "people who have not been vaccinated become second-class citizens, unable to access the freedoms allowed to their friends and family who have been inoculated".

How do vaccine passports work in other countries?

Israel has given inoculated citizens a Green Pass so they can use gyms and hotels. The system allows citizens who have been vaccinated, recently recovered from the virus or who have had a recent negative test to congregate in venues which had been closed for months such as theatres and nightclubs.

China has built a vaccine passport system into WeChat, its most popular social network.

Denmark has developed a "Coronapas" system granting access to hairdressers, restaurants and cinemas for immunised citizens.

France is considering a "health pass" allowing vaccinated people to resume leisure activities.

Bahrain has introduced the "BeAware" app that can be used to prove that subjects have received two doses of a jab.

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