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Business chiefs call for decisive action on UK COVID passports

Lucy Harley-McKeown
·3-min read
UK prime minister Boris Johnson hasn't ruled out the idea of Covid passports. Photo: Stefan Rousseau-WPA Pool/Getty Images
UK prime minister Boris Johnson hasn't ruled out the idea of Covid passports. Photo: Stefan Rousseau-WPA Pool/Getty Images

Business chiefs urged the government not to waste time on solidifying plans for a COVID-19 vaccine passport, following confirmation that they could be a possibility for reopening UK economy.

Prime minister Boris Johnson did not rule out the idea in a press conference on Monday, which will show if someone has had a vaccine, has tested negative or has immunity and theoretically will allow for a faster reopening of the economy in the UK. There are plans for trials, testing the measure in events in England. 

A spokesperson from the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said: “The government should waste no time in setting out concrete proposals for how Covid certification could work and the rationale behind the inclusion of some sectors and not others. 

"With businesses already investing significant time and money into their reopening plans, they have considerable questions around the implications of such a scheme, including the practical implementation for firms and issues of employment law and liability. 

"The government must be crystal clear on these issues and consult with business on how any system might function,” the group said. 

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John Foster, director of policy for the Confederation of British Industry, echoed this, saying: “Knowing the Covid roadmap is on track can help create the economic momentum the country needs as the second phase of reopening begins.

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“Covid status certificates have a part to play in some of the more challenging parts of the economy, like large scale events. The government has listened to industry concerns and is seeking to deploy them in a targeted way. 

"These first trials will be watched with great interest. Any introduction ought to come with rigorous guidance and enforcement to help firms navigate ethical, legal and practical implementation challenges."

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi confirmed that MPs will be able to vote on the use of domestic vaccine passports should the government decide to roll them out.

Asked if MPs will get a vote, Zahawi told Times Radio: “We haven’t even got to the stage where we have decided what we want to do on this domestically, because there are so many issues that do need careful consideration.

The mood among MPs was also mixed, with a call for decisive action and clarity in the rules. 

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth called on ministers to be clear about plans for the use of so-called vaccine passports.

On Sky News on Tuesday morning he said a government paper published on Monday permits shops and pubs to ask whether someone has been vaccinated as a condition of entry.

“The government just need to clear this up because they’re creating confusion,” he said. 

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“I do think it is discriminatory to say to somebody here in Leicester that you cannot go into Next or H&M unless you produce your vaccination status on an app, unless you produce that digital ID card.

“I don’t think that is fair. Now if ministers are saying, that is not what the policy is then they have to explain why does the policy document they produced last night permit that scenario?"

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