Covid vaccine passports WILL be used to get football fans, holidays, and packed pubs back in months, No 10 plan reveals

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VACCINE passports are set to be introduced within months to get football matches, holidays, and packed pubs back.

A plan published by No 10 today suggests the Government is on course to introduce Covid certificates in time for the end of lockdown on June 21.

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Boris Johnson is pushing ahead with vaccine passport plans

But they won’t be brought in for May 17, when pubs and restaurants will be allowed to welcome customers back indoors for the first time.

Under the plan landlords may be forced to demand proof of vaccination from punters if they want to drop crippling social distancing rules.

A review by ministers into jabs passports says they could be introduced in bars and restaurants later this year to pack customers back in.

And it states people are set to need paperwork to enter certain events even after the whole population has been offered a vaccine.

The controversial plans to reopen the whole economy are being backed by Boris Johnson, but have sparked a rebellion amongst Tory MPs.

They would see people only allowed to attend mass events like football matches and music festivals if they have a jab passport.

And in an official update on the review, published this afternoon, ministers confirmed they’re looking at extending that requirement to pubs.

At a Downing St press conference tonight the PM tried to skirt the issue by insisting mass free testing will play a major part in reopening the economy.

He said: “There are complicated ethical and practical issues raised by the idea of Covid status certification using vaccination alone.

“After all many people will be for one reason or another unable to get a vaccine for medical reasons, or perhaps because they’re pregnant, so you’ve got to be very careful in how you handle this and don’t start a system that’s discriminatory.

“But obviously we’re looking at it and we want to be going ahead in the next few weeks with some test events.”

He added: “Certainly if there’s something to put to Parliament I have no doubt that we’ll be doing that.”

Under the scheme anyone who has been fully vaccinated would enjoy a free pass to return to normal life.

But it will be more difficult for others who haven’t had the jab.

Those who have had Covid will be able to provide proof of their positive test, which is then valid for six months as evidence of antibodies.

Everyone else will have to head to a test centre in the 24 hours before the event they want to attend and get a negative swab.

No10 insists the scheme is only temporary but may have to stay in place beyond the end of July when all adults will have been offered a vacation.

It argues such drastic action will still be needed to avoid a surge in cases and a devastating third wave, despite the UK’s successful jabs rollout.

And it says vaccine passports would “likely become a feature of our lives” anyway as business would introduce such requirements themselves.

Ministers won’t ban firms from demanding proof of vaccination unless they’re essential services, like supermarkets and public transport.

Boris Johnson will give an update on his vaccine passport plans tonight

Pubs will initially be exempted but could later need them to end social distancing

The review states: “The success of the UK’s vaccination programme does not provide universal protection.

“While it is certain that vaccines have at least some impact on transmission, the extent of this is still unknown.

“Even after two doses the vaccine will not be 100% effective and some people will not take up the offer of a vaccine.

“As a result, some measures may be required for a period after all adults have been offered a vaccine, in order to prevent a surge in hospitalisations which could put unsustainable pressure on the NHS.”

Ministers say vaccine passports will also play a key role in the reopening of international travel, with many countries set to demand them.

The review adds: “It is possible that COVID-status certification could also play a role in reducing social distancing requirements in other settings which people tend to visit more frequently, for example in hospitality settings.

“However, the Government recognises this has significant implications for businesses and their customers, so this will be further considered in consultation with industry.

“The Government believes that COVID-status certification could have an important role to play both domestically and internationally, as a temporary measure.

“It is therefore right that the Government provides a means of easily demonstrating COVID-status, in order to ensure UK citizens and residents are not denied opportunities to travel or attend certain venues or events.”

The PM gave a “direction of travel” update on his plans to introduce so-called Covid certification for large scale events at a Downing St press conference this evening.

The revelations came as Boris tonight told the nation the next stage of unlocking the country is going ahead as planned thanks to the vaccination rollout.

 

Pubs and restaurants will be able to start serving customers outdoors again from next Monday, when hairdressers and beauty salons will also be allowed to resume trade.

And with the jabs rollout going great guns ministers are already looking ahead to how they will completely reopen the country, including the most high risk settings, on June 21.

A key part of those plans is the vaccine passport scheme, which would allow Brits who have had the shot, or who can prove antibodies or a negative test, to attend certain events.

But the PM is facing a huge revolt over the proposals from backbench Tory MPs and may have to rely on the support of Labour to get them past a crunch Commons vote.

Under the plan key health data would be contained in an NHS app that could be scanned by venues – and paper forms of the certificate would be available for those without smartphones.

The system won’t be in place in time for next Monday or the next key date in the roadmap – May 17 – when pubs and restaurants will be allowed to start serving customers indoors again.

And the PM hinted over the weekend that he could be prepared to drop ideas to introduce vaccine passports for hospitality settings to head off a backlash from his own party.

But Whitehall sources have insisted their possible use in pubs and restaurants is still under review, and they could be required by venues in future in return for ditching social distancing rules.

One told The Times: “While the focus is on the high-risk settings which haven’t been able to happen like clubs, theatres, and sports stadiums, the review is still looking at hospitality as well”.

Vaccine passports would run on an NHS phone app

Health minister Ed Argar said Covid certificates would only be temporary

They also insisted suggestions that vaccine passports may not be ready until the Autumn were wide of the mark and that ministers are determined to have the scheme up and running for June 21.

The source said: “The whole point is that we want the highest-risk settings to be open this summer.”

Health minister Ed Argar today insisted No 10 hasn’t changed its mind about the possible value of Covid certificates but acknowledged “this would only ever be a temporary measure”.

He said their introduction could help “speed up” the unlocking of the economy this summer and cited the success of a similar scheme in Israel, which is not almost fully open again.

Mr Argar said: “What we are seeing here is that there are a number of things we’ve had to do as a country and individuals over the past year that I don’t think any of us would choose to do or want to do.

“But the nature of this disease has meant we’ve had to do some fairly unpalatable things that we would not have chosen to do.

“Look at for example other countries like Israel, which have had a high level of vaccination and are beginning to see how they can open up their economy and country faster.

“They have something called ‘green passes’ – I think it is right that we look at this and see is there a way this could, in the short-term, speed-up our reopening of the country and getting back to doing the things we love?

“I don’t think anyone would wish to do it but I think it is right that it is looked at as, can this help us go a little bit faster and get our country back to normal?”

The system will be trialled at nine pilot events over the next few weeks, where experts will also explore how high-tech ventilation and Covid tests on entry are working.

Mr Johnson will study the feedback to help decide how to manage other large-scale gatherings as restrictions are lifted.

The PM said: “We are doing everything we can to enable the reopening of our country so people can return to the events, travel and other things they love as safely as possible, and these reviews will play an important role in allowing this to happen.”

Liverpool will be a key test centre for the opening up of the rest of the country — with four pilot events being held at a comedy club, a cinema, a nightclub and a business conference arena from next week.

And some fans will be allowed at Wembley for the Carabao Cup final on April 25, the FA Cup final on May 15 and a semi-final on April 18.

The World Snooker Championship in Sheffield and a mass participation run at Hatfield, Herts, are also involved.

Scientific advisers will use evidence from the nine pilots to assess transmission risks in different settings.

An insider said: “These events will not only be used to try out the new Covid passport.

Landlords can reopen outdoors-only a week tomorrow in England and will soon be free to admit anyone who follows existing guidelines on social distancing and mask-wearing

 

 

“We’ll have lots of eyes and ears and systems gathering a mass of data.

“What we learn in the next few weeks will be crucial to how we proceed into step three of the unlocking process on May 17.”

A review of social distancing will address a looming decision — how and when the one-metre rule and working for home guidance can safely be lifted.

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