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Vaccine passports: are they really dead in the water?

After all the debate about vaccine passports for business events, it now looks likely that they will not come to pass any time soon.

Making Covid-19 status certification a legal requirement for large events – such as trade shows, football matches and concerts – has been a thorny issue for event planners for months.

However, officials working on the review into Covid-19 status certification believe there is no chance they will come into UK law, according to The Telegraph.

The paper quotes a government source close to the review as saying: “It’s not a case of ‘it’s finely balanced’. It’s not going to happen. Everyone says it’s dead.”

The review was launched in February, when the government first expressed interest in exploring the idea as part of the roadmap to reopening in England.

Prime minister Boris Johnson has already ruled out the use of vaccine passports, or Covid-19 status certification as the government prefers to term it, for visiting the supermarket and the doctor, as well as indicating that he has no plans to introduce their use for pubs and restaurants.

Ministers are currently examining the data to decide whether the 21 June reopening in England can take place as planned, which would include people returning in greater numbers to large events.

However, plans to use the NHS app for entry to domestic events have proved too complicated. One barrier was that the NHS app could not have been used by foreign visitors. People who have medical exemptions from getting the vaccine were another concern.

Israel has just dropped its vaccine passport scheme, the Green Pass, thanks to the high levels of vaccination in the country, a decision that has been noted by the UK government.

Ethical grounds

If the Government decides not to change the law to force large events to use vaccine passports, the decision would be welcomed by many event planners.

Use of the certification via the NHS app for international travel has become accepted, but its application for domestic events has proved much more controversial on ethical grounds.

Writing in February, M&IT Expert Liz Taylor said: “Restricting freedoms such as whether a person can attend a concert or watch a football match based on their vaccination status could be a dangerous route to a more dystopian and discriminatory society.”

However, the government choosing not to change the law would not necessarily mean that Covid-19 status certification schemes would disappear entirely.

A government update in April said there was nothing stopping event organisers asking for proof of Covid-19 status before granting entry, providing they do not breach equalities laws.

Also, a sudden deterioration in the Covid situation in the autumn and winter could also see the idea return.

And there are still many who believe the passports should be part of the government’s plans. At the weekend, former prime minister Tony Blair issued the strongest call yet from a major public figure for the rollout of vaccine passports, saying it “makes no sense at all to treat those who have had vaccination as the same as those who haven’t”.

So while vaccine passports might not be something event planners have to deal with imminently, it seems likely that this debate is one that still has some way to run.

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