POLITICS
10/05/2021 18:30 BST | Updated 10/05/2021 18:35 BST

Boris Johnson Signals Covid Passports Might Not Happen

PM says "what role there could be – if any – for certification and social distancing” will be decided later this month.

Boris Johnson has given his strongest signal yet that coronavirus vaccine passports might not be used when pubs and restaurants relax social distancing rules.

At a Downing Street press conference on Monday, the prime minister unveiled the biggest rolling back of Covid-19 rules in England in more than a year – announcing families and friends will be allowed to hug each other from next Monday.

He added the “road map” out of lockdown remained on track for the next stage on June 21, and Johnson promised that later this month the government would set out “what role there could be – if any – for certification and social distancing”.

The government has been reviewing whether Covid status certification, recording whether people have had a vaccine or negative test result, could be used to help open up businesses.

In dropping a hint certification might be dropped altogether, the PM may be hoping he can avoid a collision with Tory backbenchers.

Johnson has been under pressure from the Covid Recovery Group not to go-ahead with domestic vaccine passports amid fears over discrimination and privacy.

Ministers have said any proposal would need to be voted through by parliament, which could prove tricky as Labour, along with at least 40 Tory MPs, have voiced concerns about the measure.

The issue is separate to Covid certification for international travel.

A form of Covid-free certification is likely to be needed, and the Department for Transport last week announced that from May 17 people who have had both doses of a coronavirus vaccine will be able to demonstrate their status on the NHS app.

Johnson has previously said pub landlords may be able to demand proof of a Covid vaccine from punters and it may be left “up to individual publicans” whether they ask customers for proof they have had a jab before entrance.

A government paper last month said Covid status certificates could potentially be used to show whether people have been vaccinated, recently tested, or have “natural immunity”, having tested positive in the previous six months.

The eight-page report said Covid status certification, which could be a mobile phone app or a paper document, “is likely to become a feature of our lives until the threat from the pandemic recedes”.

A government review into “Covid status certification” found they could “potentially play a role” in settings such as theatres, nightclubs and mass events, and might also be used in pubs and restaurants to reduce social distancing restrictions.

Ministers have always insisted Covid status certificates will never be required for essential services such as supermarkets, public transport or GP surgeries but could be useful for managing the risks at music festivals, sporting matches and nightclubs.