Boris Johnson has suggested that domestic coronavirus “passports” showing whether someone has antibodies or a negative test “will be useful for us as we go forward”, saying there will “definitely” be a role for vaccine passports for international travel.
Speaking to reporters in Middlesbrough, Johnson said “there’s definitely going to be a world in which international travel will use vaccine passports”.
“You can see already that other countries, the aviation industry, are interested in those and there’s a logic to that,” he added.
Outside of the UK, some countries are already working on requirements for people to prove their status before arriving. For example, the European Union is working on a digital green certificate showing if someone is vaccinated, has a negative test or has recovered from Covid-19
Despite multiple ministers and cabinet members ruling out vaccine “passports” at the start of the year, the Government is reviewing the issues around Covid-status certification in an effort to give “maximum confidence” to firms and customers as the UK slowly emerges from lockdown.
The Government is expected to issue an update on its plans this month.
‘British instinct’ against vaccine passports
Any scheme is likely to go beyond just showing whether someone has had a vaccine – as jabs are not mandatory – but would also cover whether they have had Covid-19, and so are likely to have antibodies, or if they have a negative recent test.
Johnson said there are “three things” when it comes to giving “maximum confidence to business and to customers here in the UK”.
He explained: “There’s your immunity, whether you have had it before, so you have got natural antibodies; whether you have been vaccinated; and then, of course, whether you have had a test.”
The Prime Minister’s comments came after Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, indicated that the "British instinct” could be against a form of vaccine passport showing if someone had received a jab.
Sir Keir said: “My instinct is that, as the vaccine is rolled out, as the number of hospital admissions and deaths go down, there will be a British sense that we don’t actually want to go down this road.”
“My instinct is that [if] we get the virus properly under control, the death rates are near zero, hospital admissions very, very low, that the British instinct in those circumstances will be against vaccine passports.”
‘Just wrong in principle’
Last week, the Prime Minister said it “may be up to individual publicans” whether they carry out health certificate checks on punters before allowing them into their premises.
One possibility thought to be under consideration is that pub landlords may be able to scrap social distancing if they check Covid health certificates on entry, which would allow them to operate at higher capacities – a strong incentive for participating in such a scheme.
In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Sir Keir Starmer raised concerns around the suggestion that landlords could be allowed to decide for themselves, calling “the idea that we sort of outsource” the decision to individual landlords “just wrong in principle.”