Johnson defends idea of vaccine passports as Starmer voices concerns
A domestic coronavirus “passport” showing whether someone has antibodies or a negative test “will be useful for us as we go forward”, Boris Johnson has suggested.
There will “definitely” be a role for vaccine passports for international travel, he said.
The Prime Minister’s comments came after the 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.
The Government is reviewing the issues around Covid-status certification and Mr Johnson said it was important to give “maximum confidence” to firms and customers.
On the issue of vaccine certification, there’s definitely going to be a world in which international travel will use 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.
On an international level, some countries are already working on requirements for people to proving their status before arriving – 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.
Speaking to reporters in Middlesbrough, Mr 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 said.
“I think when it comes to trying to make sure that we give maximum confidence to business and to customers here in the UK, there are three things – 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.
“Those three things working together will be useful for us as we go forward.”
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.
The move would allow them to operate at much higher capacity and could be a strong incentive for them to participate in the scheme.
The Government is expected to issue an update on its plans this month.
In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Labour leader Sir Keir indicated that there could be opposition to the idea of certification amongst the public if death rates are near zero and hospital admissions are very low.
I think this is really difficult and I'm not going to pretend there's a clear black and white, yes-no easy answer on this. It is extremely difficult
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.”
He continued: “I think this is really difficult and I’m not going to pretend there’s a clear black and white, yes-no easy answer on this.
“It is extremely difficult.
“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.”
Sir Keir raised concerns around the suggestion that landlords could be allowed to decide for themselves.
He told the Telegraph: “I think this idea that we sort of outsource this to individual landlords is just wrong in principle.”
Asked if he feels uncomfortable with the new Covid laws introduced, he explained that current restrictions should not be in place for longer than they are necessary.
“If that was a long-term proposition I’d be very, very worried about it and I would be fighting it tooth and nail,” he said.
“Nobody wants these restrictions, nobody enjoys living under these restrictions, and they shouldn’t be in place for a moment longer than is absolutely necessary.”
Wales’ First Minister Mark Drakeford said he had been in discussions with the UK Government and the other devolved administrations about a vaccine passport scheme, but acknowledged there were “many practical and ethical issues” to resolve.
“We continue to work together on the issue of vaccine certification,” he said.
“There are positive prizes to be won from having a successful vaccine certification scheme but there are many practical and ethical issues that will need to be addressed and resolved successfully if those positive opportunities can be won from it.
“They are complex, but we are engaged on it together.”
Pub and hospitality bosses raised concerns that the review into Covid status certification, led by Michael Gove, looks likely to recommend that venues will be required to demand “immunity proof” from customers, with the threat of fines for non-compliance.
They also criticised a requirement for customers to sign in individually on entry and a lack of clarity over whether payments inside will be allowed once outdoor hospitality resumes, expected on April 12.
Trade bodies UKHospitality, the British Beer and Pub Association and the British Institute of Innkeeping, said: “The Government has promised the country that we will be reopening but we are now being told that this will be with our hands tied behind our backs.”