Government to trial coronavirus ‘status certification’

Written by Alain Tolhurst on 6 April 2021 in News
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Plans include use of NHS Covid-19 app to display vaccination or test results

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The prime minister has confirmed that a trial of systems of “Covid-Status Certification” will begin later this month after a Whitehall review into their use concluded they could “allow some freedoms to be restored more safely”.

Boris Johnson confirmed people will have to either show they have been vaccinated, have had a recent negative test, or prove they have “natural immunity”, having had a positive test within six months.

A document released by the government yesterday giving an update on the roadmap review does not rule out their use in hospitality in the long term.

“It is possible that Covid-status certification could also play a role in reducing social distancing requirements in other settings which people tend to visit more frequently, for example in hospitality settings” it says. “However, the government recognises this has significant implications for businesses and their customers, so this will be further considered in consultation with industry, as part of the review of social distancing rules and taking into account the equalities and other impacts.”

The government has said as other countries are already developing their own certification systems, such as the “digital green certificate” in the European Union, its hand has been forced into creating one for the UK, despite opposition from many MPs.


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Further details of how and when the system will be implemented will be released in due course, including how the science behind system of proving “natural immunity” from antibodies works.

Work is also underway to use the existing NHS app to allow people to display their Covid status securely, and there will be a paper version available for non-smartphone users.

The review, which is being led by Michael Gove, will continue taking evidence ahead of a final recommendation later this spring and once a number of pilot events have taken place.

Whatever system is ultimately put in place, the government has ruled out using them in shops and on public transport, and the PM told a Downing Street press conference there was "absolutely no question" of people having to show a vaccine passport to go to the pub or hairdresser when lockdown eases next week.

"On Covid status certification, as we prefer to call it, the most important thing to say to everybody listening and watching is there's absolutely no question of people being asked to produce certification or a Covid status report when they go to the shops or to the pub garden or to their hairdressers or whatever on Monday,” he said. "We are not planning that for stage three either – 17 May, as you know we are hoping to go for the opening up of indoor hospitality and so on.

It also ruled out banning firms from asking people to prove their Covid status, arguing it “would in most cases be an unjustified intrusion on how businesses choose to make their premises safe”.

“It is therefore right that the government provides a means of easily demonstrating Covid-status, in order to ensure UK citizens and residents are not denied opportunities to travel or attend certain venues or events”, the document reads.

The government has said it “will ensure appropriate Parliamentary scrutiny”, and will present interim findings to the Commons later this month.

Asked if there will be a vote on the issue Johnson said yesterday: "We are taking too many fences at once, first we need to work out what exactly the proposal might be, but certainly if there is something to put to parliament I am certain we will do that."

 

About the author

Alain Tolhurst is chief reporter for PublicTechnology sister publication PoliticsHome, where a version of this story first appeared. He tweets as @Alain_Tolhurst.

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