POLITICS
05/04/2021 17:04 BST | Updated 07/04/2021 12:17 BST

Vaccine Passports Could 'Play A Role' For Pubs, As Boris Johnson Relaxes Lockdown

The prime minister has confirmed some Covid rules in England will be eased on April 12 as planned.

PA Media

Vaccine passports could be used by pubs and restaurants to relax social distancing rules, the government has confirmed, but not before May 17.

Speaking at a No.10 press conference on Monday, Boris Johnson announced the hospitality industry in England will be able to begin serving outdoors from April 12.

Non-essential retail, hairdressers and gyms will also be allowed to reopen as the government’s roadmap for lifting lockdown remains on course. 

Overnight stays away from home in England will also be permitted and self-contained accommodation can also reopen.

The prime minister said the easing of rules was “fully justified by the data”, but warned the public not to be “complacent” about the virus.

It came as the government said a Covid-status “certification system” will be developed over the coming months which could allow “higher-risk settings” to be opened up “more safely and with more participants”.

Johnson said there were “ethical and practical issues” involved in their introduction but some test events will be launched in the next few weeks.

The passports are expected to show whether someone has received the vaccine, has recently tested negative for Covid, or has “natural immunity” having tested positive in the previous six months.

In its review, published as Johnson spoke, the government said it “believes that there are some settings (such as essential public services, public transport and essential shops) where Covid-status certification should never be required, in order to ensure access for all”.

But it added: “Equally, Covid-status certification could potentially play a role in settings such as theatres, nightclubs, and mass events such as festivals or sports events to help manage risks where large numbers of people are brought together in close proximity.

“It is possible that Covid-status certification could also play a role in reducing social distancing requirements in other settings which people tend to visit more frequently, for example in hospitality settings.”

Such a move would be “further considered in consultation with industry”, the review added, amid widespread opposition. 

More than 40 Tory MPs have already signed a cross-party letter opposing the introduction of passports.

Labour leader Keir Starmer has described them as “un-British” but has yet to set out whether he would back the scheme or not.

It raises the prospect of the government being defeated in any Commons vote held to approve the scheme.

Asked if parliament would vote, Johnson said it was “too many fences at once” to know yet.

The PM also did not rule out children being required to have vaccine passports should they be implemented, only saying such a choice was “a way off”.

Holidays abroad will still be illegal from April 12 and the ban will not be lifted until May 17 at the earliest.

But Johnson unveiled a new “traffic light” system for international travel, which will see destinations rated green, amber or red depending on how each country is dealing with its Covid outbreak.

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 at home or quarantine in government-approved hotels.

As part of its plan to reopen the domestic economy, the government has also promised to supply everyone in England with two quick-result lateral flow tests each week in a bid to cut the chain of transmission.

The tests, which are being widely used in schools, can provide results in as little as 30 minutes, with the two-tests-per-week available from April 9.

More than 31 million people in the UK have now received at least one dose of a vaccine.