I have received a number of emails about vaccine passports, or Covid-status certification. Let me say at the beginning that passports of this type need to be looked at from two angles; first, for international travel, and, secondly, for domestic uses. The former is largely outside our control in that, whatever we may want to do, if other countries want to see us have a passport we will have to follow if we want to travel to those countries. This is no different to inoculation against yellow fever for example.
In the case of the latter, in principle, I can see no difference between requiring a driving licence to drive a car and a health certificate re. Covid. The idea that somehow this automatically creates a two tier nation is simply not true. It depends on what such passports are used for and when they are introduced. These are too early to answer now in view of the review which is taking place.
A range of options are being considered to encourage people to receive the Covid-19 vaccine. As set out in the Government’s Roadmap towards easing restrictions, four programmes of work have been established to consider different aspects of how the UK should handle Covid-19 from summer onwards. One of these is a review into whether Covid-status certification could play a role in reopening our economy, reducing restrictions on social contact, and improving safety.
On 5 April, an update was published into the reviews outlined in the roadmap, including the Covid-Status Certification Review. This update noted that, even without Government intervention, Covid-status certification is likely to become a feature of our lives until the threat from the pandemic recedes. Other countries are already developing their own certification systems, such as the “Green Pass” in Israel and the “digital green certificate” in the European Union. While the review is ongoing, I firmly support that the Government has guaranteed to ensure appropriate Parliamentary scrutiny, presenting interim findings in Parliament during April.
Of course, Covid-status certificates raise complex ethical and discriminatory issues that would need to be worked through. This is something I know the Government and the Prime Minister are conscious of, and I welcome the fact that the Government is considering these issues fully as part of the review. I understand that the review has so far gathered evidence from clinical and ethical experts, as well as businesses and their representative organisations; in addition, the public call for evidence has generated over 50,000 responses representing a wide range of opinions.
It is right that no options are ruled out at this stage. Conclusions and the outcome of the review will be set out in advance of Step four of the Roadmap and, as the Prime Minister has already said, it may be that there is a role for certification in the future. However, for now the emphasis is rightly on our vaccination and testing programmes.