Government discusses vaccine and testing passports plan

Number of departments would be involved in potential scheme
Photo: PA

By John Johnston

12 Feb 2021

The government is set to discuss plans for a vaccine and testing certification scheme, despite repeated denials from ministers that any scheme was being considered.

According to Sky News, the government will hold a meeting today to discuss the plans which have been put together by the Cabinet Office to ensure Brits are able to visit countries once international travel is allowed.

Ministers have repeatedly denied that a formal vaccine passport scheme would be put in place, despite some countries, including Greece, suggesting they would only open their borders to tourists who could prove their vaccination status.

The government batted away reports last week that a formal plan was being developed, saying instead that travellers would be able to prove their vaccination status by contacting their GP for a letter.

If approved, the Department for Transport would reportedly be responsible for drawing up plans for the scheme, with the NHS asked to prepare for people to be able to access their vaccine status to prepare for international travel.

Meanwhile, it is believed the Cabinet Office will lead on efforts to begin "formal engagement" with other countries about the plans.

Earlier this week, transport secretary Grant Shapps told the BBC's Today programme that he expected any future system would work in a similar way to current vaccine certificates, "just as we have the yellow fever card".

"I imagine that in the future there'll be an international system where countries will want to know that you've been potentially vaccinated," he said.

But a government insider reportedly told Sky News there was "nervousness" around the announcement of the scheme and how it would be rolled out.

It comes just days after vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi claimed the government was not looking into any passporting scheme, telling Sky's Sophy Ridge: "One, we don't know the impact of the vaccines on transmission; two it would be discriminatory and I think the right thing to do is to make sure people come forward to be vaccinated because they want to rather than it being made in some ways mandatory through a passport."

He added: "If other countries obviously require some form of proof, you can ask your GP - because your GP will hold the records - and of course that will then be able to be used as proof that you have had your vaccine, but we are not planning to have a passport in the UK."

John Johnston is a reporter for CSW's sister title PoliticsHome, where a version of this story first appeared.

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