What are the UK plans for Covid passports?

Proving your Covid status is “likely to become a feature of our lives”, the government has said.

So, what are its plans for Covid or vaccination passports?

What is a Covid passport?

At present, people who have had a Covid jab receive a vaccination card, and the details go on their medical records.

The government is now looking at how to allow people to more easily show their Covid status, as “a temporary measure”.

This could mean a record of whether people have been vaccinated, recently tested negative or have natural immunity after being ill with Covid.

It is hoped this could make it easier to reduce social distancing and allow international travel.

The UK government said it was working with colleagues in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to agree a “consistent approach”.

How will Covid passports be tested?

The government plans to test how Covid status certificates could help crowds return to large events in England, including:

  • theatres
  • nightclubs
  • festivals
  • sports events

A club night, the FA Cup final and a mass participation run are among events which will be part of a study in April and May.

The trials will also look at how social distancing, ventilation and Covid tests when people arrive could be used.

Will you need a Covid passport to go to the pub?

For stage two of lifting lockdown in England – including the reopening of non-essential shops and pub gardens on 12 April – there will definitely be no legal requirement for a Covid passport, according to Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The same will apply to stage three – from 17 May at the earliest – when pubs and restaurants can seat people indoors.

“There is absolutely no question of people being asked to produce a certification or a Covid status report when they go to the shops or to the pub garden or to the hairdressers or whatever on Monday,” Mr Johnson said. “And indeed, we’re not planning that for step three, either.”

However, the government says it will be legal for such businesses to ask customers for proof of Covid status if they wish to – as long as they do not break equalities laws.

What’s less clear is whether the law could change at a later date – with businesses forced to ask for proof of status.

The prime minister has previously suggested pub-goers could be asked to provide a vaccine certificate, after all adults have been offered a first jab by the end of July.

Will Covid passports be compulsory?

The government says there will be some settings where Covid passports will never be required – including essential shops and public services, and public transport.

It has also said there will be exemptions for some people “for whom vaccination is not advised and repeat testing is difficult”.

Nevertheless, proposals for vaccine passports have been criticised as “dangerous, discriminatory and counterproductive” by dozens of MPs. Senior Tory backbencher Mark Harper has called for a vote on the issue.

Will I need a vaccine passport to go abroad?

Covid certification – including proof of a negative test – is already part of international travel, the government said. It expects this to continue and is looking at ways of making it possible to show such information digitally.

European officials have announced plans for an EU-wide “Green Digital Certificate”. This would allow anyone vaccinated against Covid, or who has tested negative, or recently recovered from the virus, to travel within the region.

Officials hope the certificate will be in place before the summer tourist season.

Individual countries have also announced plans, including:

  • Cyprus says Britons who have had two jabs can visit from 1 May, without needing a negative test or to quarantine
  • Greece will admit Covid-negative Israeli tourists using its “green” digital vaccine certificate
  • Denmark and Sweden are developing vaccine passports

Will care home staff have to be vaccinated?

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the government is considering whether care workers in England must be vaccinated.

Fewer care home staff have had vaccines than any other priority group. As at 14 March, about 76% of eligible care home staff in England have had the vaccine, compared with 97% of healthcare staff.

The prime minister told MPs it seemed “wholly responsible” for care companies to require their workers to be vaccinated.

However, no final decision has been taken.

Other UK nations make their own decisions on health. The Welsh government has said it has no plans to make vaccines compulsory.

Can my boss demand I get the jab?

There have also been questions over whether staff working in other jobs could be required to get vaccinated.

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said making new staff get vaccinated could, in theory, be possible if it was written into their contracts.

However, he said it was unlikely employers could make existing workers have vaccines under their current contracts, unless the law was changed.

In the absence of such a change, demanding that current staff be vaccinated would be unlawful in the “majority of circumstances”, according to employment lawyer Ella Bond, from Harper James solicitors.

Businesses are not allowed to discriminate against people for reasons including disability, pregnancy and religious belief.

Pregnant women are not generally recommended to have the vaccine unless they are at particular risk. It is also not suitable for people with some health conditions, including certain allergies and immune system problems.

Sarah Gilzean, a discrimination lawyer at Morton Fraser, agrees that such valid reasons for not having the jab could make it hard for employers to insist on vaccination.

“In settings where there are alternatives like mass testing that are less intrusive, it’s going to be difficult for employers to justify that requirement,” she says.

Source: https://www.bbc.com/news/explainers-55718553

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