News | Published March 30 2021

Ministers open-minded about vaccine passports

Ministers appear to be keeping an open mind over the potential future use of vaccine passports, after culture secretary Oliver Dowden suggested they could be a “tool in the short term” to reopen theatres and sports stadia.

Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Dowden said that no decisions on vaccine passports had yet been made but emphasised that ministers had to “look at all options” to “make areas of our national life viable”.

Under the government’s roadmap out of the lockdown in England, restrictions on most outdoor social gatherings are set to be lifted on May 17, but social distancing and limits on capacity at cinemas, museums, theatres and sporting events will remain until June 21, at which stage all legal limits on social contact could be removed.

Prime minister Boris Johnson has said that vaccine passports would not be considered until all UK adults had been offered the vaccine. The government has set a target of July for this to happen.

While Dowden admitted that vaccine passports would have to be looked at for the “much greater easing” of restrictions to materialise by June as planned, he assured that it was “not the only factor”, with the continued success of the vaccine rollout also an issue of importance.

He also told the programme that pilot schemes would commence from mid-April to look at issues like ventilation and one-way systems, as well as providing the opportunity to conduct tests on how the virus spreads at indoor and outdoor events.

Addressing people’s concerns about vaccine passports infringing on their civil freedoms, Dowden pointed out that chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove was currently undertaking a review into the matter.

Meanwhile, Welsh first minister Mark Drakeford said that he would consider vaccine passports on a “four-nation basis” providing the system was “fair and reliable”, having already spoken about the issue with Gove, Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon and Northern Ireland first minister Arlene Foster.

Drakeford said: "I think there are definitely prizes to be won through domestic vaccine certification, but there are very big practical and ethical challenges to face as well. What about those who can't be vaccinated because their health conditions don't allow that to happen? If it's a self-certification system, then what reliance can we put on the fact the that somebody produces a certificate?"

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Authored by

Alexander Bridge-Wilkinson
Junior Editor
March 30 2021

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