What is a Covid or vaccine passport, how would they work and when would we be required to have one?

Those are questions we are starting to think about, as sunny weather this Easter weekend makes us dream of being able to do ‘normal’ things in the summer months, as more and more people get vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Although the UK is moving faster than many countries around the world to get millions of people inoculated, vaccine supplies have dipped and other places are further ahead when it comes to setting the rules for a world after lockdown.

Israel, for example, has a system which requires citizens to show they are vaccinated before attending events like concerts – which, believe it or not, have started up again.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to tell the nation more on Monday (April 5) about things like rules for holidays abroad, the next stage of lockdown easing on April 12 and so-called ‘vaccine passports’.

There have been mixed messages from the PM so far – who has at times suggested he’s against a jab passport system, or in recent weeks has implied pub landlords might have the option to impose one on customers.

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Mass gathering event trials

Details of 9 trial events have been revealed, which the Government is expected to use to test various options for testing and proof of vaccine.

The outcome of these events could determine the rules for events and socialising without social distancing this summer.

People attending the trials will have to adhere to an agreed code of behaviour when they purchase a ticket and to take a Covid test both before and after the event.

They will be required to follow existing Government guidance, including wearing face coverings, and to provide contact details of everyone in their group for NHS Test and Trace.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “By piloting a range of measures to reduce transmission, we can gather vital scientific evidence to inform our plans for allowing events in the future.”

The trial events – list in full

1 - Hot Water Comedy Club, Liverpool, April 16

300 comedy fans will be the first guinea pigs for the Covid/vaccine passport.

2 - FA Cup semi-final, Wembley Stadium, April 18

4,000 fans will be allowed to watch Leicester vs Southampton, taking part in the scheme.

3 - World Snooker Tour, Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, April 17-May 3

A full house of 1,000 snooker spectators is expected, where the passport concept will be tested further.

4 – Open air Luna cinema, Liverpool, April 23-25

Again the event is expecting around 1,000 film fans, in another test for the idea.

5 – Fun runs, Hatfield House, April 24-25

A Hertfordshire venue will host three 10km fun runs. Up to 3,000 runners and 3,000 onlookers will be allowed at each event.

6 – Carabao Cup Final, Wembley Stadium, April 25

A week after the FA Cup semi trial, 4,000 fans will again be allowed to watch Tottenham take on Manchester City in the League Cup final.

Entry is expected to be dependent on a negative rapid test result, followed up by a more accurate PCR test at home afterwards.

Salisbury Journal: The new Wembley Stadium, London.

7 – ACC Business conference, Liverpool, April 28

In another use of Liverpool as a guinea pig, around 1,000 people are expected for a conference at ACC Liverpool at the end of April.

8 – Circus Nightclub, Liverpool, April 30-May 1

No venue has been confirmed but this could be a big test for how nightlife events will work as they open up again after lockdown.

As many as 3,000 could be allowed this event, yet again in Liverpool.

Night-time venues elsewhere, such as Salisbury Chapel nightclub, will be interested in what the trial event discovers.

9 – FA Cup Final, Wembley Stadium, May 15

In the third trial event at Wembley, fans will again be allowed in, this time for the FA Cup final.

A crowd as big as 21,000 fans is expected to be permitted this time.

When and where will vaccine passports be used?

At the same time as the trial events for mass gatherings, the Government is working on the development of a “Covid status certification” scheme, the so-called “vaccine passport”.

However – despite Boris Johnson’s recent comments about pubs – shops and hospitality venues are not expected to be part of any passport scheme.

Advisers are said to have decided they will be most useful at mass gatherings, like those selected for the trial events.

These could include nightclubs, sporting matches and festivals, where large numbers of people are unavoidably in close proximity.

Ministers have said that the passport could involve the use of the NHS app, although they acknowledge there will have to be an option for paper certificates for those who do not have access to the digital option.

In developing the scheme, officials will take into account three factors, whether an individual has received the vaccine, has recently tested negative for the virus, or has “natural immunity” having tested positive in the previous six months.

Experts are also trying to decide how to allow some people – such as those medically advised not to take a vaccine at present – to be exempt from any passport scheme.

However - as many as 40 Conservative MPs could oppose the idea, which might pose problems for the Prime Minister getting it approved.

Labour leader, Keir Starmer, also expressed opposition to jab passports last week, so there could be significant opposition in Parliament.

What about holidays abroad?

The Prime Minister will also outline the Government’s approach for easing restrictions on foreign travel when its global travel task force reports on April 12.

Ministers have made clear that the ban on foreign travel will remain in place until at least May 17.

When it is finally lifted, it will be replaced by a risk-based “traffic light” system with red, amber and green ratings for countries around the world.

This will be based on a range of factors, including the proportion of the population that has been vaccinated, rates of infection, emerging new variants and the country’s access to reliable scientific data and genomic sequencing.

Salisbury Journal: An airport queue

Travellers arriving from countries rated “green” will not be required to isolate although pre-departure and post-arrival tests will still be needed.

For those classed as “amber” or “red”, the restrictions will remain as they are with arrivals required to isolate or enter quarantine.

It's thought the vaccine passport idea could apply more rigorously to travel abroad, with the airline industry already working on its own ideas to enable holidays again.

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