‘Covid Status Certification’: Boris Signals U-Turn on Domestic Vaccine Passports for Pubs and Theatres

TOPSHOT - Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson attends a virtual press conference inside 10 Downing Street in central London on February 22, 2021, after he earlier set out the Government's roadmap out of the third Covid-19 lockdown. - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday set out a four-step plan …
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Prime Minister Boris Johnson has signalled that vaccine passports may be required domestically within the UK for Britons to go to the pub or the theatre.

Mr Johnson said on Tuesday that Cabinet Minister Michael Gove — who has previously stated the government was not planning on rolling out a health pass — will be heading up the government’s research into a vaccine passport scheme, looking into the “best scientific moral, philosophical, and ethical viewpoints” on the issue.

The new position stands in clear contradiction to his comments last year when he responded to an interviewer with a flat “no” when asked whether Britons would need paperwork proving their covid status to enter pubs:

In an interview with Sky News on Tuesday, UK PM Boris Johnson said of the new policy: “This is an area where we’re looking at a novelty for our country. We’ve never thought of having anything like this before, that you have to show when you go to a pub or a theatre.

“There are deep and complex issues that we need to explore, ethical issues about what the role is for government in mandating people to have such things or indeed banning from people doing such a thing.”

“I know the fervent libertarians will object but other people will think that there is case for it,” Johnson said, adding that a lot of countries will be “insisting on vaccine passports in the way that people used to insist on evidence that you’ve been inoculated against yellow fever or whatever.”

The British leader did caution, however, that vaccine passports should not be used to discriminate against people who cannot take the vaccine, yet he failed to elaborate on what protections would be offered.

On Monday, Mr Johnson said that part of the so-called ‘roadmap‘ to freeing Britons from the coronavirus lockdown restrictions, the government will be “reviewing” the role that “COVID status certification” may play in helping venues “open safely”.

The civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch mocked the doublespeak type language from the Prime Minister, joking on social media that “Covid Status Certification is now how you spell vaccine passports”, the document that government ministers have spent months denying would be deployed.

Separately, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) — which has been working with the British government to develop the coronavirus passport app — has said that their digital passport project will be ready to be implemented “within weeks”.

Vinoop Goel, IATA’s regional director of airports and external relations, told The Telegraph: “We are currently working with a number of airlines worldwide and learning from these pilots. And the plan is to go live in March,” adding: “So basically we expect to have a fully functional working system over the next few weeks.”

Goel defended the scheme, which has been criticised for infringing upon person liberties, by saying “the key issue” in reopening travel “is one of confidence”.

“Passengers need to be confident that the testing they’ve taken is accurate and will allow them to enter the country. And then governments need to have the confidence that the tests that the passengers claim to have is one which is accurate and meets their own conditions.”

Reports have indicated that the government is currently funding eight projects for digital vaccine passports.

The government has been giving mixed signals on the issue for months, with Vaccine Minister Nadhim Zahawi and Cabinet Minister Michael Gove both denying that the government would introduce health passes within the country.

There have been increasing signals that the European Union will also introduce such a scheme, following the announcements from countries such as Denmark and Greece that they will be implementing vaccine passports.

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here @KurtZindulka

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