United Kingdom

Covid passports could be used to help 'tough to open' sectors, Boris Johnson suggests 

COVID passports could be restricted to ‘tough to open’ sectors such as theatres, sports stadiums and nightclubs, Boris Johnson suggested yesterday.

Ministers have faced a backlash from MPs over the idea that their introduction could mean customers would be forced to show ‘papers for the pub’.

But the Prime Minister last night hinted that a review led by Michael Gove will focus on sectors that were unable to reopen last summer because they were not compatible with social distancing.

Speaking at a No 10 press briefing, he said Covid status certification ‘may well be very useful’ in some areas. But he suggested its use would not be widespread: ‘What we are looking at – what I think any responsible government would look at – is how we use people’s Covid status to open up those things that are very tough, and did prove very tough to open last year.’

COVID passports could be restricted to ‘tough to open’ sectors such as theatres, sports stadiums and nightclubs, Boris Johnson (pictured) suggested yesterday

Mr Johnson insisted that any scheme would allow people to demonstrate a recent negative Covid test in place of proof of vaccination status or evidence that they had already had the virus.

The Department of Health yesterday published adverts for jobs on a possible Covid certification scheme, with applicants asked to be ready to start by May 4.

Government sources confirmed work was under way on a scheme for international travel, but insisted no decisions had been taken on the scope of any UK use.

Mr Johnson’s comments came after Mr Gove arrived in Israel for a two-day fact-finding trip, where a version of a Covid passport scheme was introduced last month. The Cabinet Office minister flew in on Monday night accompanied by deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam to see what lessons the UK can learn.

Mr Gove (pictured) is expected to meet the Israeli health and foreign ministers to discuss the scheme, and may also meet President Benjamin Netanyahu

Israel has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world and introduced a so-called ‘Green Pass’ system of Covid certification last month. Under the scheme, Israelis can gain access to hotels, gyms and theatres by proving their Covid status. The pass is available to anyone who has recovered from the virus, been fully vaccinated, or had a negative Covid test.

The scheme is similar to proposals being examined by Mr Gove as part of a review designed to allow the reopening of mass events without social distancing.

A Government source last night insisted that ‘no decisions’ had been taken over whether to press ahead with such a plan. Mr Gove is expected to meet the Israeli health and foreign ministers to discuss the scheme, and may also meet President Benjamin Netanyahu.

But the idea is controversial in the UK, with Labour expressing doubts and more than 40 Tory MPs vowing to vote against the idea.

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