UK to trial form of 'vaccine passport' to allow return of mass events

The UK is set to trial a form of “vaccine passport” in the next few months in a bid to return to indoor events and mass gatherings.

People wearing protective face masks await the beginning of a cinema screening in Sarajevo. Picture: Elvis Barukic

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to announce a trial scheme on Monday, which will allow people to use an app or document to gain access to events after receiving a Covid-19 vaccine, a negative test or natural immunity after having had the virus in the last six months.

Pilot events will begin in England within two weeks, with the first trials to include sporting matches and indoor entertainment.

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Evidence from the trials will be used to inform a more widespread form of vaccine passports.

Some settings will be excluded from the scheme, including public transport and essential shopping, and officials are working to devise exemptions for those unable to receive the vaccine and for whom frequent testing might be difficult.

It comes after a cross-party group of 70 MPs and peers declared their opposition to the “discriminatory” nature of vaccine passports earlier this week.

The first trial is due to take place on April 16 at the Hot Water Comedy Club in Liverpool, to be followed two days later by the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley.

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Other events where the scheme is to be tested include the World Snooker Championship at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield – running from from April 17 to May 3 – and a mass participation run at Hatfield House on April 24 and 25.

The pilots will culminate with the FA Cup Final, again at Wembley, on May 15.

Writing in The Mail On Sunday, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “We will examine the risks closely, plan to keep people safe, mitigate the dangers and, in doing, so we will be able to have spectators returning in full to events once more.

“Each successful pilot is a huge step forward towards the life we all miss sorely, every day.

Mr Johnson said: “We have made huge strides over the past few months with our vaccine programme and everyone in the country has made huge sacrifices to get us to this stage in our recovery from Covid-19.

“We are doing everything we can to enable the reopening of our country so people can return to the events, travel and other things they love as safely as possible, and these reviews will play an important role in allowing this to happen.”

National Clinical Director Jason Leitch has called the idea of vaccine passports “enormously complex”.

“I don’t think this is as easy as it sounds at first hearing,” he said in a Covid-19 media briefing on Tuesday.

“It is enormously complex – it has inequalities challenges, and it has challenges around those who are unvaccinated.”

Labour peer and former director of human rights organisation Baroness Chakrabarti said on Friday they could create a “checkpoint Britain”.

“It’s counter-productive because we have got one of the highest confidence levels in vaccine uptake,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme.

“History demonstrates, even in Britain, that when you inject an element of compulsion into public health measures, such as vaccination or symptomatic testing, you actually encourage resistance and scepticism amongst the population.”

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