Government review does not rule out future requirement but, for now, it will be up to businesses to choose
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Large events and hospitality businesses in the UK will not be mandated to ask their customers for evidence of Covid status, but will be offered the option of a government-backed digital NHS Covid Pass.
According to the findings of a government review published yesterday, while such a mandate would have a public health benefit, this would currently be outweighed by the burden placed on organisations and people – particularly those “who have not yet been offered a full course of vaccination and would therefore require repeated testing”.
However, the review also concluded that the government should not prohibit businesses from making Covid status part of their own requirements of entry, should they so wish.
“To ban certification in domestic settings would, in most cases, be an unjustified intrusion on how organisations choose to make their premises safe,” the review said. “Essential settings should not use certification, but others can decide to use it at their own discretion in compliance with legal obligations.”
This being the case, the government said that it is right that the state “provides a means of demonstrating Covid status” that can be adopted by businesses. This will be available for firms once step four of the government’s roadmap out of lockdown is reached on 19 July – when almost all remaining restrictions are to be lifted across England.
“The government will make the NHS Covid Pass, accessed via the NHS app, available so that individuals can prove their status,” the review said. “This functionality has already been available for trials through the Events Research Programme. Covid status will be achieved by completion of a full vaccine course, a recent negative test, or proof of natural immunity. There will be a small number of exemptions for those participating in vaccine trials and for those for whom vaccination and testing are not appropriate.”
Although government does not currently wish to mandate the use of the NHS Covid Pass, the possibility of implementing requirements for status certification is to be kept “under consideration”.
“It is possible that certification could provide a means of keeping events going and businesses open if the country is facing a difficult situation in autumn or winter,” the review said.
Since it was confirmed that proof of vaccine status would be available via the NHS app, downloads of the technology have skyrocketed.
As of March 2020, 15 months after its launch, the program had been downloaded only 250,000 times. By May 2020, this had risen to 2.5 million – an increase perhaps partly driven by demand for remote service but also, it seems likely, by a degree of confusion between the core NHS app and the NHS Covid-19 contact-tracing system, which has been downloaded almost 26 million times.
Since it was confirmed that the NHS app would include a means of demonstrating vaccine status – which is requirement for travel into some countries – the number of users has shot up to more than six million.
In addition to a record of their coronavirus jab, the app also offers users the ability to book GP appointments, order prescriptions, and submit their preferences for organ donation and the use of their data.