Pub landlords may be given permission to ask customers for proof of a Covid-19 vaccination before being allowed to enter, the Prime Minister has said.
Boris Johnson told the Commons Liaison Committee on Wednesday (24 March) that it may be left up to “individual publicans” to decide whether to ask for domestic passports for access to their venues.
Will a pub vaccine passport be introduced?
The possibility of introducing a document which proves if a person has been vaccinated, or tested negative, for coronavirus is currently under review by ministers.
Combining the two sets of information is understood to be one of the options that is being considered.
Including both vaccination and test results will help to avoid discriminating against those who have declined to have a Covid-19 jab for health, or other, reasons.
The introduction of a “Covid vaccine certification” has been considered as one of the methods which could help to resume travel again, but could now also be introduced at hospitality venues, such as pubs.
While Mr Johnson has suggested that introducing such a document in pubs may be decided by individual landlords, the idea has come under scrutiny.
Trade body UKHospitality criticised the prospect of pubs and restaurants being subject to vaccine passports as “simply unworkable” and argued that it could cause conflict between staff and customers.
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, said: “It’s crucial that visiting the pub and other parts of hospitality should not be subject to mandatory vaccination certification.
“It is simply unworkable, would cause conflict between staff and customers and almost certainty result in breaches of equality rules.
“Through the success of the vaccine rollout we need to throw off the shackles of coronavirus in line with the government’s roadmap, not impose more checks on our ability to socialise and do business.”
Similarly, the British Beer and Pub Association also argued against introducing such documents, arguing that pubs have already gone to great lengths to ensure they are safe to welcome customers back.
A British Beer and Pub Association spokesperson said: “Our sector has already gone to extraordinary lengths to prepare for reopening and we do not believe a requirement for pubs to check whether someone has had the vaccine would be appropriate or necessary.
“We will continue to work closely with the government in developing guidelines for a safe and sustainable reopening in April and May.”
Risks of a ‘two-tier’ Britain
In response to the criticism against the introduction of vaccine passports, Mr Johnson told MPs that the “concept of vaccine certification should not be totally alien to use”, after referring to the requirement of doctors to be vaccinated against hepatitis B.
However, Conservative MP and former minister Steve Baker warned that such a certificate could risk creating a “two-tier” Britain, as it would exclude those who are unable to take up the vaccine for medical reasons.
The deputy chairman of the Covid Recovery Group of Tory lockdown sceptics said: “The Prime Minister began to tread a dangerous path when he opened the door to domestic Covid certificates.
“First they said we’ll need them to watch the football, and today that it may be papers for the pub.
“Whether the state legislates for it, recommends it or simply allows it the result will be the same: a two-tier Britain that prevents pregnant women from taking part in society, given that the government is telling them not to take the vaccine, or one where we turn back the clock and tolerate businesses turning away customers from communities which have shown an unfortunate hesitancy to take up the offer of a vaccine.
“We must not fall into this ghastly trap.”
Will vaccine passports be needed for travel?
Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove has been tasked with leading a review into the possible use of coronavirus status certificates as part of the road map lifting lockdown.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed that a study into the use of vaccine and testing certificates will be one of four reviews conducted as part of easing the current restrictions, and said that the use of vaccine passports for international travel was more than likely.
Some other countries around the world have already started working towards introducing these kinds of measures, with the European Commission announcing on 1 March that it will be submitting a proposal for digital Covid vaccinations to be implemented across the EU.
The Digital Green Pass will provide proof that a person has received a coronavirus jab, alongside test results for those who have not received a vaccine.
In Estonia, the UN’s WHO health agency is working to implement an e-vaccination certificate, also known as a “smart yellow card”, while Denmark is also developing a digital vaccine passport.
Professor Devi Sridhar of Edinburgh University spoke to the Scottish Parliament’s Health Committee about international travel regulations during the pandemic and said that if Covid-19 vaccines significantly reduced transmission of the disease, electronic vaccine passports could help to restart international tourism.
She added that EU countries are already developing plans for a digital green pass, with countries including Spain and Greece keen to welcome visitors again, and said airlines have also collaborated to create an application called CommonPass, which allows passengers to upload medical information, such as test results or vaccination status, and generates a pass in the form of a QR code.
British Airways is currently trialling a Covid vaccine passport which will allow passengers to add proof of their vaccination status before flying.
These documents will then be checked to make sure they match the entry requirements of the relevant destination, with travellers able to check in 24 hours before they fly.
Those who register on the airline’s app or online booking system that they have received two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine will be eligible to travel.