NHS Covid app could become a 'passport' for entry into pubs and restaurants - here's how it would work

Wednesday, 24th February 2021, 12:20 pm
Updated Wednesday, 24th February 2021, 12:20 pm
The equalities watchdog has raised concerns over any plans to make vaccine certification a requirement for access to events or venues (Photo: Shutterstock)

Under plans being considered in England, the NHS Covid-19 app may be revamped to show a user's coronavirus status, in order to guarantee safe entry into hospitality venues.

Ministers are said to be considering the move as a Covid-safe way to get customers back into restaurants and pubs once they reopen later this year.

Under the plans, these venues would be given powers to check whether a customer has been vaccinated or recently tested before allowing them entry.

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Vaccine passports could lead to 'unlawful discrimination'

There are several ways such certification could be shown, but one of the methods being considered in a review involves adapting the current NHS Covid-19 app. As yet, it's unclear whether users would upload results from self-administered lateral flow tests.

The equalities watchdog, however, raised concerns that such certification could be abused by workplaces to relax coronavirus safety measures, and said that any move relying solely on vaccine certification may be unlawful.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission added that such certification could lead to “unlawful discrimination”, disadvantaging people who have not yet received the vaccine.

Combining testing and vaccines could be the key

It is hoped the review will finish in time to allow introduction of measures before the lockdown roadmap reaches its final phase on 21 June, when the Government has indicated almost all social restrictions may be removed.

The Government may face some backlash from Conservative backbenchers regarding any move to make Covid vaccine certification a prerequisite for entering smaller venues, but ministers hope that the alternative option of a negative test will be enough to quell any dissent.

Sources in Government have indicated that ministers wish to avoid scenarios in which being vaccinated is the only way to access services and events, stressing the importance of combining testing and vaccination.

In addition to the review being led on vaccine and testing certification, the Government will also carry out a second review into social distancing, looking at whether hospitality venues can be allowed to reach total capacity, examining home working advice and looking at when people may be allowed to hug once again.

It is expected that advice on social distancing between friends and family - including hugging - will be updated by 17 May.