Katy Balls

Is Boris Johnson opening the way for vaccine passports?

Is Boris Johnson opening the way for vaccine passports?
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The government's position on vaccine passports is a cause of continuing intrigue. Although Downing Street has insisted on several occasions that they will not be brought in domestically, there have been several statements that suggest otherwise. As well as looking at vaccine passports for international transport, Dominic Raab appeared to at least entertain the idea of vaccine certification when it comes to reopening hospitality.

Speaking at Monday's press conference, Boris Johnson sought once again to offer assurances on the issue. Rather than domestic vaccine passports, he said that in terms of reopening the economy, mass vaccination and testing would be the go-to mechanisms. The Prime Minister said that when it came to the 'the toughest nuts to crack', such as nightclubs and theatres, lateral flow testing could play a key role:

I think for this country, and the purposes of doing things in the domestic economy, we'll look at everything. But what we're thinking of is more of a route that relies on mass vaccination, plus lateral flow testing for the toughest nuts to crack as it were, for nightclubs, theatres, and those parts of the economy we couldn't get open.

However, this points to a growing concern among critics of immunity certificates: that they are vaccine passports by the backdoor. As soon as one accepts the premise of people needing to prove their Covid status to enter a building or spend money with a business, it's not too hard to see how someone's vaccine status could be used as well. A business could propose that a lateral flow test was not needed if the individual could simply show they had received the vaccine. Johnson's comments today are unlikely to close down the vaccine passport debate.