A mobile phone app could serve as a Covid ‘passport’ to enter pubs and theatres under plans being considered by Boris Johnson.
The Prime Minister is examining proposals that would allow business, hospitals or schools to demand proof that someone has been vaccinated – or has tested negative for the virus.
The app could be used to enter theatres, cinemas, sports venues and music festivals or pubs and restaurants. The system could also be used by businesses to regulate which staff members can come back to the office.
Ministers had denied for weeks that such a scheme was being considered for anything other than foreign travel.
A mobile phone app could serve as a Covid ‘passport’ to enter pubs and theatres under plans being considered by Boris Johnson (stock photo)
However, Mr Johnson has now tasked Michael Gove with leading a review into so-called Covid passports as part of the roadmap for lifting lockdown restrictions in England.
One tech firm hired by the Government has suggested using Covid passports to gain access to hospitals, schools and care homes.
The Prime Minister acknowledged yesterday there were ‘deep and complex issues’ surrounding status certificates.
Officials hope that combining virus test results and vaccination status on one app could prevent firms penalising those who refuse a jab – or are unable to have one for health reasons.
The app could be used to enter theatres, cinemas, sports venues and music festivals or pubs and restaurants. The system could also be used by businesses to regulate which staff members can come back to the office. Pictured: The Sondheim Theatre where Les Miserable was playing before the pandemic struck
Mr Johnson confirmed that a ‘proper review’ of the issue would be led by Mr Gove, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, ‘who will be getting the best scientific, moral, philosophical, ethical viewpoints on it and will work out a way forward’.
He added: ‘The fervent libertarians will reject it… but other people will think there’s a case for it.’
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said yesterday that she would ‘never support something that deepens social inequalities’ or ‘took away people’s civil liberties’ based on their medical history.
However, she told Holyrood: ‘We should think properly, without closing our minds at this stage, to what a vaccine passport or certificate might offer us.’
Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group, warned: ‘Vaccine passports have the potential to be extremely discriminatory and invasive of personal privacy.
Mr Johnson has now tasked Michael Gove with leading a review into so-called Covid passports as part of the roadmap for lifting lockdown restrictions in England
‘They could be used as an excuse for ID cards through the back door… and the supposed benefits may be limited and temporary.
‘It is right that the Government proceeds with caution – it must ensure that there is public consultation and that it interrogates the benefits and the downsides. It could be a very concerning path to take.’
The comments follow Monday’s announcements of a four-step easing of lockdown in England.
The results of Mr Gove’s review are expected before the final step, which can take place no earlier than June 21.
If key tests on vaccinations, infection rates and new variants are met, step four would see all restrictions lifted and life return broadly to normal by the summer.
The Mail revealed two months ago that ministers had signed deals with tech firms to help Britons prove they do not have Covid.
One, The Hub Company, said an app could be used ‘much like a train ticket’ to access places including hospitals, care homes, schools and mass events such as football matches and music festivals.
Scanners at entrances could refuse entry to those whose smartphones did not show evidence of a recent negative test result.
Sam Rudder, the firm’s chief executive, hailed the ‘potential of an open digital platform’ that could ‘save lives, time and money’.
Holidaymakers could be offered phone app as digital Travel Pass ‘within weeks’
Holidaymakers could be offered a phone app ‘within weeks’ that would enable them to prove they have tested negative for Covid or been vaccinated.
The International Air Transport Association, which is in talks with the UK Government, yesterday revealed plans to go live with its digital Travel Pass next month.
The development is a boost to the millions of Britons hoping for a foreign holiday this summer after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a roadmap for reopening foreign travel on Monday.
Mr Johnson has asked a new taskforce to look into how holidays can safely be resumed, with ‘vaccine passports’ seen as one potential long-term measure. Popular holiday destinations such as Greece, Cyprus, Spain and the Canary Islands have already expressed interest in the idea.
IATA’s app will be capable of verifying if a passenger has had the Covid-19 tests or vaccines required to enter a country.
Holidaymakers could be offered a phone app ‘within weeks’ that would enable them to prove they have tested negative for Covid or been vaccinated (stock photo)
It would also prove they were administered by an approved authority and store the information on individual phones rather than in a centralised database to better protect privacy.
Vinoop Goel, IATA’s regional director of airports and external relations, said: ‘The key issue 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 passengers claim to have is one which is accurate and meets their own conditions.’
He added: ‘The plan is to go live in March, so basically we expect to have a fully functional working system over the next few weeks.’
IATA stressed the app would not be live for use next month as a ‘vaccine passport’, partly because Britain does not currently issue proof of vaccination in digital format.
But it is understood this is one of the issues being worked through by the new Department for Transport-led travel taskforce – raising the prospect of British holidaymakers using such an app this summer.
The UK’s vaccine credentials, which are currently given in paper format, would need to be ‘digitalised’, IATA said.
One way this could be done is if health authorities began issuing QR codes which could be scanned and uploaded into apps as proof that both doses of the vaccine had been given, along with information about where it was given, which jab was received and who it was administered by.
Mr Johnson has asked a new taskforce to look into how holidays can safely be resumed, with ‘vaccine passports’ seen as one potential long-term measure. Popular holiday destinations such as Greece, Cyprus, Spain and the Canary Islands have already expressed interest in the idea (stock photo of Taverna Nikos, in Mykonos, Greece)
The industry sees digital passes as an essential part of reopening air travel, as many countries still have strict restrictions or quarantines, which could be lifted for those who can prove they have been inoculated.
Singapore Airlines was the first airline to start trials of the IATA Travel Pass in December. Etihad, Emirates, Qatar Airways and Air New Zealand are among the others conducting trials.
Other airlines are also trialling different apps which could end up being used for ‘vaccine passports’.
British Airways is trialling one called VeriFLY and expanded the trial last week to cover all inbound flights to the UK, in addition to all outbound flights to the US. It is currently only used to verify a negative Covid test result. Meanwhile, travel firms reported a booking bonanza yesterday after Mr Johnson said there was ‘every chance’ breaks abroad could go ahead this summer.
Tui, the UK’s largest tour operator, recorded a six-fold increase in bookings. Greece, Spain and Turkey were the most popular destinations, with bookings for those countries up 500 per cent. It was the firm’s busiest day for more than a month.
Rival package holiday giant Jet2.com said bookings were up 600 per cent, with Spain, Greece and Cyprus also among the most-booked destinations.
Steve Heapy, chief executive of Jet2.com, said: ‘We have seen enormous pent-up demand from British holidaymakers for some time, with people wanting nothing more than to get away to the sunshine and enjoy their well-deserved holidays. The Government’s announcement is the news they have been longing for.’