Boris Johnson Admits Vaccine Passports Will Become ‘Inevitable’

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 15: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson talks during a Covid-19 media briefing in Downing Street on February 15, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Stefan Rousseau - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Stefan Rousseau - WPA Pool/Getty Images

Vaccine passports for the Chinese coronavirus will “inevitably” be implemented for international travel, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson admitted in a press conference on Monday.

The British government has been wavering on the issue of vaccine passports for the past few months. However, Mr Johnson gave the clearest indication yet that such a scheme will be imposed on Britons.

“I think inevitably there will be great interest in ideas like can you show that you had a vaccination against COVID in the way that you sometimes have to show you have had a vaccination against yellow fever or other diseases in order to travel somewhere,” Johnson said at a Downing Street press briefing.

“I think that is going to be very much in the mix down the road, I think that is going to happen,” the British leader added.

The language from Mr Johnson mirrors that of former Prime Minister Tony Blair, who has reportedly been advising the government on the Chinese coronavirus. Blair has also said that vaccine passports will become “inevitable”, and therefore called on Johnson’s government to become one of the first adopters of the scheme.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed on Monday that the British government is currently in negotiations with other countries to develop a digital form of a vaccine passport.

“There are some countries around the world that are considering bringing in rules saying you can only travel if you have been vaccinated – these aren’t in place yet, but there are countries who are actively floating this idea and proposing it,” he told Sky News.

Hancock argued that due to the current restrictive state of international travel, it would be important for people in the UK to be able to show their vaccination status to go abroad.

“So we are working with countries around the world on the basis for this and how that vaccine certification can happen in a way that can be assured,” he said.

At his press conference, Prime Minister Johnson went on to say that he does not believe that health passes will be required for people to enter establishments such as pubs. However, he did suggest that larger venues like nightclubs, cinemas, or theatres may require patrons to present a negative coronavirus test.

“I think that will be the route that we go down and that businesses will go down,” Mr Johnson said, adding: “You are already seeing lots of business using the potential of rapid, on-the-day testing as well. I think that, in combination with vaccination, will probably be the route forward.”

Johnson did caution that it is “still early days” and that “there are lots of discussions still to be had”.

Cinemas and theatres have already begun partnering with firms working on vaccine passports to facilitate their reopening.

David Chadwick of Verifiable Credentials — a company currently funded by the government to develop a digital vaccine certificate — told The Telegraph that he has already come to agreements with a theatre and a cinema complex to run trials of the technology.

The plan would create electronic vaccination certificates tied with data from the National Health Service (NHS) which would be paired with tickets bought online to create a smartphone QR code to be used upon entry.

Despite denials from Vaccine Minister Nadhim Zahawi and Cabinet Minister Michael Gove that the government would implement vaccine passports, the British government has reportedly been funding eight separate projects to develop the health passes.

The idea of vaccine passports has been picking up steam across Europe, with several EU member states announcing their intentions to adopt the measure. Both Denmark and Greece have said that they will launch vaccine passports for international travel this month.

Following Mr Johnson’s press briefing on Monday, the civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch warned that vaccine passports would create a “health apartheid” state, saying: “We cannot banish people from public life for having the wrong vaccine ID. The government does have a duty to stop such irrational, authoritarian [and] discriminatory impulses.”

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here @KurtZindulka

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