The Prime Minister has announced plans to explore introducing vaccine passports for entry to pubs, theatres and football matches, marking a major government U-turn after ministers previously ruled out the idea.
Boris Johnson said he was confident all Covid restrictions will be lifted by 21 June, after outlining his roadmap for leaving lockdown last night.
Speaking to Sky News this morning, the PM said he would launch a review into the possibility of rolling out domestic vaccine passports.
“This is an area where we’re looking at a novelty for our country. We’ve never thought of having anything like this before, that you have to show when you go to a pub or a theatre,” he said.
“There are deep and complex issues that we need to explore, ethical issues about what the role is for government in mandating people to have such things or indeed banning from people doing such a thing.”
Number 10 sources said that any domestic vaccine passport would likely allow for a testing option for people who have not yet been vaccinated.
“You should be thinking about vaccines and testing together,” they said.
It comes despite ministers repeatedly denying plans to introduce domestic vaccine passports for entry to venues.
Vaccines deployment minister Nadhim Zahawi said earlier this month that the passports would be “discriminatory”, adding that “it’s not the way we do things here in Britain”.
However, Zahawi later watered down his stance, saying it was “up to businesses to decide” whether or not to refuse entry to customers who had not been vaccinated.
The Prime Minister today insisted that “we can’t be discriminatory against people who, for whatever reason, don’t take a vaccine”.
“Some people may genuinely refuse to have one. I think that’s a mistake. But we need to thrash all this out,” he said.
He added that the UK has “got time” to iron out the details “because what we’re doing is rolling out the vaccination programme and that will go on for the next couple of months”.
Johnson said he had appointed Michael Gove, chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, to oversee a review of the plans in the meantime.
It comes after health secretary Matt Hancock this morning confirmed ministers were looking into the creation of vaccine passports for international travel.
Hancock said a new travel taskforce will review the risks of bringing mutant variants back into the UK on 12 April, with the possibility for foreign travel to resume on 17 May at the earliest.
Both Denmark and Sweden have announced plans to introduce digital vaccine certificates to kickstart tourism after almost a year of hibernation.
The Swedish government said it hoped to implement vaccine passports by June, and would work to make the national certificates compatible with international certificates being discussed by both the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the EU.
Denmark last month said it would initially publish an online registry of people’s vaccination statuses by the end of February while it develops a long-term solution.
Meanwhile, Greece has led the charge in pressuring the EU to expand to scheme further across the continent.
Greece’s tourism minister this morning called on EU leaders to “move more quickly” to embrace vaccine certificates, as Athens seeks to repair its battered holiday industry.
“Looking at the reaction of some countries to vaccination certificate proposals, I feel there’s a lot of short sightedness. There’s more to be done now to prepare ourselves,” minister Harry Theocharis told the Financial Times.