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‘Covid passports’ back on the table

‘Covid passports’ back on the table
Image source: Getty Images

UPDATE: the standard NHS appoint-booking app is being considered to allow Brits to use their phone to prove they’ve been vaccinated or have tested negative.

Boris Johnson has revealed that he will order a review into whether Covid passports could be used to help reopen the economy. It’s a major U-turn that comes barely two weeks after the government ruled out the idea.

If approved, UK citizens who have been inoculated against Covid-19 could receive a special passport that would allow them to take part in some everyday activities and travel.

Here is what we know so far.

What is a Covid passport?

A Covid passport would confirm that you’ve received the Covid-19 jab. This could allow you to lead a normal life and partake in activities you are not currently able to. Examples include assembling at outdoor events and travelling for holidays abroad.

However, significant concerns have been raised about the morality and ethics of such action. Several ministers have repeatedly ruled out the idea, saying that the Covid vaccine should be voluntary.

Are Covid passports back on the table?

It seems that the idea of Covid passports is once again a possibility, although the reasons for this major U-turn are still unclear.

While delivering his four-step roadmap out of lockdown on Monday afternoon, Boris Johnson announced that the government will review whether to introduce vaccine passports later in the summer. 

According to the roadmap, the government will be “assessing to what extent certification would be effective in reducing risk, and the potential uses to enable access to settings or a relaxation of Covid Secure mitigations”.

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As part of the review, the government will weigh up the ethical, privacy, legal and operation aspects of the approach. It will also look at the extent to which Covid passports could disproportionately affect some groups of people.

Findings of the review are expected to be available before 21 June. This is the earliest date by which the government hopes to lift all lockdown restrictions. 

What would be the effect of Covid passports?

If the review recommends the use of Covid passports, it could pave the way for the unhindered reopening of some aspects of society. This includes social venues, outdoor performances and ticketed events at cinemas, theatres and football stadiums.

Holiday travel is illegal under current lockdown restrictions. You can only travel for essential purposes like work and education. A Covid passport could allow those who’ve already received the jab to travel for holidays both locally and abroad. 

Can I start planning to travel abroad?

The review of Covid passports will undoubtedly be welcome news to many Brits who’ve had to hold off on their holiday plans for much of the last 12 months due to lockdown restrictions.  

After spending most of last year cooped up indoors, many of us are looking forward to a change of scenery.

That said, no one knows for sure what the future holds regarding Covid passports. It’s probably a little too early to start packing those holiday suitcases.

In the meantime, here are a few things to consider as we prepare for when we’re able to travel again:

  1. Keep up to date with government rules, requirements and guidance for the places you plan to travel to by regularly visiting the FCDO website.
  2. Consider taking out travel insurance ahead of your trip to cover you for any mishaps before or during the trip. A word of caution, however. Read the fine print of any policy you take out carefully. Make sure that it will provide cover for coronavirus-related claims such as holiday cancellations.
  3. To help stretch your money further as you travel, think about taking out a travel credit card that doesn’t charge you fees for foreign transactions and cash withdrawals.
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