The term ‘vaccine passport’ has been thrown around a lot lately.
First, we were told they would not be introduced as they were ‘discriminatory’, then we were told they may be needed to go to the supermarket, and then the Prime Minister turned around and said they won’t be needed for the pub.
So what are the ‘vaccine passport’ theories? Will we need them or not? Will they come from the Government? And what will the rules be around them?
As the Government continues to work toward vaccinating all adults in the UK against Covid by the autumn, these questions are going to start becoming more and more common.
In some respects, the notion of vaccine passports and whether they’ll become a thing is quite simple, according to The Mirror.
Internationally it’s likely that vaccine passports will become as essential as your British passport if you’re planning on travelling abroad as countries look at ways to keep their residents safe but allow tourists to return and revitalise their economies.
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The UK is currently looking into a scheme which allows us Brits to prove we’ve had the jab in order to get into foreign countries.
However, when it comes to domestic use, so far it seems that vaccine passports won’t be a thing.
Boris Johnson has insisted the government has no plans for a vaccine passport which would allow you to go to a pub or supermarket, or even do a certain job.
But there are some complications to this.
Some companies have already said they will only be hiring people who have had the vaccine, and ministers have admitted that private venues have the power to stop certain people coming in – for example, those who have not been vaccinated.
So even if they don’t come from the Government, vaccine passports could still become part of our everyday lives.
Matt Hancock has admitted the whole issue is a “live question”, and he’s not wrong.
So here’s what we know so far and where we are with how the UK stands on vaccine passports.
Will the UK have vaccine passports?
Well, this depends on what you mean.
The UK is likely to have some form of certification scheme to let Brits show they’ve had the jab, if they’re trying to get into another country for example.
This would be aimed more at international travel than it would domestic use, as other countries are likely to demand proof of this.
It could come in the form of a paper certificate rather than a full ‘passport’ which you’d have to carry around, or a smartphone app.
Boris Johnson and his Government have insisted there are no plans for a vaccine passport scheme to be used within the UK.
However, as we said above, some private firms are already working on their own schemes, and they could slip into everyday use even if not backed by the Government.
The whole notion around the vaccine ‘passport’ is simply proof that you have had a vaccine, regardless of what format that proof comes in.
Will I need a vaccine passport to travel?
This seems the most likely scenario.
Once we’re allowed to leave the country again, and book holidays abroad, many of us will be looking to escape for a bit to the sunny beaches abroad.
However, Brits jetting off to sunnier climates may find the countries they’re heading to are in a very different Covid position to the UK, and could demand proof that British holidaymakers have been vaccinated.
Matt Hancock has said the UK is working on a system to give people this proof, in a similar way to those who travel to destinations requiring a yellow fever certificate.
Speaking to LBC Radio he said: “There are some countries around the world who are saying that in order to travel there in the future… you’ll have to show you have been vaccinated.
“So we want to make sure Brits can do that and therefore can show their vaccination status in a vaccine certificate of some kind.
“We’re not, we haven’t got any plans for the introduction of this domestically. But we are of course working with international partners.”
Spain’s foreign minister today said Brits hoping for a sunshine getaway on the Costa del Sol could be “fast-tracked”.
Arancha Gonzalez told the BBC: “There could be some sort of fast-track for people who have gotten their vaccine and can prove it with vaccine certification, where mobility would be easier because they would be in the lower-risk category.
“This is the scheme that Spain together with a group of other countries are working on.”
Will a vaccine passport be needed to go to the pub?
Hospitality has been hit incredibly hard by the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdowns.
And with the hope that this may be our last lockdown, many of us are looking forward to summer days.
Of course, one of the quintessential ways to spend a summer’s day for a Brit is in a pub beer garden – perfect as you’re outdoors, and can maintain social distancing.
But when it comes to the vaccine passport things could get complicated.
The UK Government has no plans for a vaccine passport to let you go to the pub.
Use our tool below to learn more about the Covid vaccine rollout near you:
Mr Johnson said: “What I don’t think we will have in this country is, as it were, vaccination passports to allow you to go to, say, the pub or something like that.”
However, pubs are private businesses and they can choose to impose their own entry rules, regardless of what the Government decides to do.
Back in December, Michael Gove said: “Of course, individual businesses have the capacity to make decisions about who they will admit and why.”
And Boris Johnson said just last week: “When we’re in that different world… then all kinds of apps and all kinds of possibilities will be open to us.”
Will I need a vaccine passport for the supermarket?
The answer to this one is basically the same as that of pubs.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Sunday that needing a bit of paper to go to the supermarket “hasn’t been ruled out” and is “under consideration”.
However, a Number 10 source later slapped down Mr Raab’s comments, saying: “It is categorically not something we’re doing. That is not going to happen, and not something we are considering.”
Vaccine passports for jobs
Again, this one is difficult.
The government insists there are no plans to have a state-run vaccine passport scheme, allowing you into certain jobs.
But some firms have already said they will ban employees who don’t get the vaccine, regardless of what the government says.
There are particular concerns about social care, just two-thirds of whose workers have had the first dose so far.
Care home firm Barchester said last month: “Our current position is that we are will not hire someone who has refused to have the vaccine on non-medical grounds.
“We have not said that we will sack staff who refuse the vaccine on non-medical grounds; instead we have brought in behavioural nudges which we hope will encourage staff to be cognisant of the responsibility we have to protect our residents and relatives.
“Staff can make their own choice about whether to have the vaccine but we strongly encourage it.”
Pimlico Plumbers boss Charlie Mullins has said he’ll rewrite contracts to require employees to get the vaccine, adding: “If people don’t want the vaccine, let them sit at home and not have a normal life.”
He predicted that in five or six months, “to go into a bar or cinema, or go on a plane, you have to have a vaccine”.
What does the Government say?
So far the government has been very quiet on what happens if a private firm bans someone who hasn’t had the jab.
It’s likely they don’t want to get involved in the political maelstrom – especially if it’s seen to encourage anti-vaxxer conspiracy theorists – and will let any disputes be settled in court instead.
But it’s also true that the government is trying to put all its PR focus into highlighting the benefits of the vaccine, not talking about what happens if people don’t get it.
Matt Hancock said today “our focus is on encouraging people to come forward”.
The Health Secretary added: “What we want to do, and what we’ve so far been successful in doing, is making sure this whole debate about the vaccine is framed, rightly, in the real positive benefits that vaccines can bring.”
No10 say it is an important principle that the vaccine is optional, not mandatory.
What about private firms?
Some private firms are already developing technology that could be used as part of a vaccine passport scheme.
Andrew Bud, chief executive of iProov, told The Times he was in “detailed discussions” with public and private organisations, for example about “rotating staff in medical and social care environments”.
He admitted a scheme would come with “ethical challenges” but said: “Think how much safer you will make communities of people if only vaccinated people are allowed to physically mix with those communities.
“Imagine how much safer it would be if schools could allow people whose parents have been vaccinated to come back into the school. Imagine in social care environments, how much safer it would be if relatives were vaccinated.”
Is it legal for private firms to ban the unvaccinated?
This is an open question, and unless the government passes a specific law it could end up being settled in the courts.
It could also depend on the specific circumstances of each case, according to Elizabeth McEneny, a Senior Consultant at law firm CM Murray.
In a useful blog last month, she wrote that bosses may be on safer legal grounds forcing healthcare workers than, say, electricians or office workers to get the vaccine.
As well as this, there are competing areas of law.
On the one hand, the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 says bosses must take “reasonable steps” to ensure the safety of their staff. This could include any instruction for staff to get the jab, if it is deemed “reasonable”.
On the other hand, though, there is discrimination law. Bringing in a vaccine rule before the rollout finishes could be age discrimination. In her piece, Ms McEneny added: “In theory, an anti-vaccination stance could attract protection under the Equality Act 2010 by amounting to a protected philosophical belief.
“An employee taking such a stance would need to establish that their belief was genuinely held, cogent, serious and worthy of respect in a democratic society.”
-- to www.cambridge-news.co.uk