The UK may use the NHS app as a digital Covid-19 certificate for people to prove they have been vaccinated against or tested negative for the SARS-CoV-2 virus, according to The Times.
Despite having previously branded so-called ‘vaccine passports’ as discriminatory, it is understood that the UK government is considering allowing businesses to demand to see the app when admitting staff and customers to their premises.
The move is being considered following reports that restaurants, entertainment venues and other business are looking into third-party certification services.
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove is leading a review into a number of options, including a revamp of NHS App that gives patients access to a range of NHS services or the NHS COVID-19 test and trace app, to display vaccination status or input the result of a recent negative test. The review is set to report by 21 June.
The government has previously indicated that rapid lateral flow tests could be a better way to ensure people could visit venues safely.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that vaccine passports for international travel, similar to certificates currently issued with vaccines for diseases such as yellow fever, will “come on the international stage, whatever”.
He has also said that domestic vaccine passports, should they be rolled out, would need to be introduced in a way that would not discriminate against those who had not received an inoculation.
Johnson said: “We can’t be discriminatory against people who, for whatever reason, can’t have a vaccine. There might be medical reasons why people can’t have a vaccine, some people may genuinely refuse to have one – now, I think that’s a mistake, I think everybody should have a vaccine.”
UK civil liberties group Big Brother Watch recently condemned the use of vaccine passports in a blog post, saying that “with vaccine IDs and more, the government is offering us a future of more controls, not more freedom.”
The campaign group noted that in a 2004 Telegraph article, Johnson said that if asked to show an ID card he would physically eat it.