UK Govt Begins Work on QR Code Coronavirus ‘Freedom Passports’, Denies System is ‘Imminent’

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 26: Demonstrators attend a "We Do Not Consent" anti-mask rally at Trafalgar Square on September 26, 2020 in London, England. Thousands of anti-mask demonstrators protested in Trafalgar Square after the British government imposed tighter coronavirus laws this week. (Photo by Hollie Adams/Getty Images)
Hollie Adams/Getty Images

The British government has awarded contracts to two firms to develop coronavirus “freedom passports” to enter into workplaces, pubs, and schools despite previously proclaiming that there are no plans to implement such a system.

The two contracts were awarded to develop a smartphone app that would create a digital passport with a QR code and picture that would be linked to confirmation of a negative coronavirus test. The QR codes would allow venues to screen and refuse entry to those who do not have a recent negative test result.

The proposed “negative Covid-19 test certification” system was discovered on the government’s contracts checker, according to the Daily Mail.

One of the contacts awarded the IT services company Netcompany UK £42,000 in November to develop a “Covid-19 Certification/Passport MVP”. Another government contract totalling some £34,000 was granted to Hub Company to develop a QR code-based app.

The Department of Health and Social Care denied that the contracts meant that the government was planning to implement an immunity passport system following the vaccine rollout.

A source within the department said the contracts merely represent “exploratory work” and that such a system would not be put in place imminently, saying: “It is about looking at ways we could use this in future.”

“It is looking at whether it would be possible,” the source said, adding that the government is “continually exploring ways in which we can return to normality.”

The idea of so-called immunity passports was first mooted by Health Secretary Matt Hancock in April, who said at the time: “We are looking at an immunity certificate. People who have had the disease have got the antibodies and then have immunity can show that and therefore get back as much as possible to normal life.”

The idea was later denied by Cabinet Minister Michael Gove, who said in November that he was unaware of “anyone” in government who was planning on introducing a freedom pass for daily life in Britain.

The Conservative MP for Stratford-on-Avon and recently installed vaccine minister, Nadhim Zahawi, said late last month that he would not be surprised if British businesses would require immunity certificates following the vaccination programme.

“I think you’ll probably find many service providers will want to engage in this in the way they did with the [Test and Trace] app,” Zahawi said.

With the introduction of the vaccination programme in the UK this month, Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) has been issuing recipients of the jab cards that prove the injection took place. The card instructs the carrier to “make sure you keep this record card in your purse or wallet”.

When asked by Sky News, Government Minister James Cleverly refused to rule out whether the NHS card would be used as an immunity passport to go about daily life in the country.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government has also reportedly started work on developing “vaccine stamps” for British passports following the announcement from airlines such as Qantas, that they will require proof of immunity before allowing people to travel internationally.

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here: @KurtZindulka

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