In the UK, people might soon not be able to access public spaces such as restaurants, sports stadiums, and movie theaters without proof of coronavirus vaccination through an app. So, while the vaccine could be optional, Britons who choose not to take it might face major restrictions in access to public life if they can’t produce the app when requested.
Nadhim Zahawi, a member of parliament who was recently tasked with the deployment of the coronavirus vaccine, warned that businesses would require proof of COVID-19 vaccination from customers before they enter, similar to the current QR code scanning for contact tracing. In other words, once a vaccine is approved, Britons will require “immunity passports.”
Zahawi confirmed that the department of health was looking to develop immunity passports.
“We are looking at the technology,” he said speaking to the BBC. He added that such technology would be “a way of people being able to inform their GP (physician) that they have been vaccinated.”
“But I also think you’ll probably find that restaurants and bars and cinemas and other venues, sports venues, will probably also use that system – as they have done with the app.”
Zahawi also confirmed the vaccine would not be compulsory but hinted that those who choose not to might face many restrictions.
“I think it is right that it is voluntary. People have to be allowed to decide for themselves whether they want to be vaccinated or otherwise. But, I think the very strong message that you will see, this is the way we return the whole country, and so it’s good for your family, it’s good for your community, it’s good for your country to be vaccinated. And, ultimately people will have to make a decision,” he explained.
The head of the NHS Test and Trace system, Baroness Dido Harding who was CEO of the communications group TalkTalk during one of the biggest data breaches in UK history, said that her team was working on updating the app so that it could show the vaccination status.
Speaking to the Times, she said that she was hoping that “in the future to be able to have a single record as a citizen of your test results and whether you’ve been vaccinated.”
This news comes amid rumors that a coronavirus vaccination might be approved in the UK in the coming days. On Monday, Moderna submitted its vaccine candidate, which is supposedly 94 percent effective, to regulators in Europe and the UK for emergency approval. MHRA, the UK regulator is also expected to approve Pfizer’s vaccine candidate soon.
However, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has not publicly endorsed immunity passports. But he did tout “freedom passes” for people who repeatedly test negative for the virus. In a press conference last week, he acknowledged the “system [freedom pass] is untried” and “there are many unknowns.”
“But if it works, we should be able to offer people who test negative the prospect of greater freedoms – to meet up in certain contexts with others who have tested negative,” the PM explained.