With the UK gradually coming out of lockdown, government and health officials are desperate to take measures to reduce the risk of a third wave. The ongoing Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccination rollout is the thing most are pinning their hopes on. So far, vaccinations appear to have had a significant impact on hospitalisations and deaths, particularly in older age groups.
However, there remain concerns that the easing of lockdown could trigger a third wave. Infections are most likely to increase once the nation returns to indoor mixing in venues such as pubs, theatres, and other hospitality settings, as well as private homes. As such, the government is looking at how Covid passports could work practically within the UK, which is causing a lot of confusion and controversy.
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Idea of Covid passports for the UK not ruled out
The Vaccines Minister, Nadhim Zahawi, pointed out recently that a review into the use of Covid passports within the UK was different from the passports needed for international travel. He said that it was important for the government to consider the use of passports to help reopen the economy fully.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Mr Zahawi stated, “It's only right that we look at all these options that are available to us to take our lives back.” He added, “I think it would be remiss and irresponsible for us to not look at all these things.”
In his press conference yesterday, Boris Johnson made it clear that the government had not ruled out the idea of using Covid passports. The matter is still under review and would involve discussions with the devolved administrations to ensure consistency across the board.
The passports are already set to be trialled at major events, including the FA Cup Final at Wembley. However, whether the government will fully introduce them remains to be seen and will be based on the ongoing review by officials.
Mr Zahawi has said the passports will not be needed for the up-and-coming reopening of outdoor hospitality and non-essential retail on 12th April. He also said they would not be required for the opening of indoor hospitality from mid-May. However, with the review still ongoing, there is much speculation over when and for what purposes the passports will eventually be introduced and required.
Dividing the nation: would you carry your Covid status on your phone?
The prospect of using these passports has divided the nation, with many supporting the move and others claiming it amounts to discrimination.
More than 8,000 adults across the UK were polled recently as part of an Ipsos Mori survey. Close to 80% said that they supported the idea of Covid passports for activities such as international travel and visiting loved ones in care homes. The data also showed that nearly three-quarters endorsed the use of passports to visit loved ones in hospital, and 68% agreed with the use of passports for indoor concerts and theatres.
However, many others believe that these passports could further divide the nation and that people should not have to provide proof of their medical and Covid status just to live life as normal.
Would you carry your Covid status on your phone and display it on request to lead a "normal" life?
This is something that many are reluctant to do. Still, senior government officials say it could be a crucial part of getting back to normal without risking another surge in Covid cases.
No clarity from the government
Despite the overwhelming support suggested by the recent poll, there is still a tremendous amount of confusion, which is not surprising given that the government is still not clear about if and how these passports will work. If government officials are unable to provide any clarity concerning Covid passports, the general public has little chance of understanding what the situation is and how it is likely to evolve.