Vaccine passports WILL be ready for June 21 end of lockdown – and pubs may have to use them to ditch social distancing

BRITS will need vaccine passports to enter big venues like football grounds and nightclubs from as early as June 21 under plans set to be announced by Boris Johnson today.

The PM will give a "direction of travel" update on his plans to introduce so-called Covid certification for large scale events at a Downing St press conference this evening.

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And it has emerged ministers are still looking at the possibility of making pubs ask for proof of a jab or negative test in future if they want to drop all social distancing requirements.

The revelations come as Boris prepares to update the nation tonight, when he will announce the next stage of unlocking the country is going ahead as planned thanks to the vaccination rollout.

Pubs and restaurants will be able to start serving customers outdoors again from next Monday, when hairdressers and beauty salons will also be allowed to resume trade.

And with the jabs rollout going great guns ministers are already looking ahead to how they will completely reopen the country, including the most high risk settings, on June 21.

A key part of those plans is the vaccine passport scheme, which would allow Brits who have had the shot, or who can prove antibodies or a negative test, to attend certain events.

But the PM is facing a huge revolt over the proposals from backbench Tory MPs and may have to rely on the support of Labour to get them past a crunch Commons vote.

Under the plan key health data would be contained in an NHS app that could be scanned by venues – and paper forms of the certificate would be available for those without smartphones.

The system won't be in place in time for next Monday or the next key date in the roadmap – May 17 – when pubs and restaurants will be allowed to start serving customers indoors again.

And the PM hinted over the weekend that he could be prepared to drop ideas to introduce vaccine passports for hospitality settings to head off a backlash from his own party.

But Whitehall sources have insisted their possible use in pubs and restaurants is still under review, and they could be required by venues in future in return for ditching social distancing rules.

One told The Times: "While the focus is on the high-risk settings which haven't been able to happen like clubs, theatres, and sports stadiums, the review is still looking at hospitality as well".


They also insisted suggestions that vaccine passports may not be ready until the Autumn were wide of the mark and that ministers are determined to have the scheme up and running for June 21.

The source said: "The whole point is that we want the highest-risk settings to be open this summer."

Health minister Ed Argar today insisted No 10 hasn't changed its mind about the possible value of Covid certificates but acknowledged "this would only ever be a temporary measure".

He said their introduction could help "speed up" the unlocking of the economy this summer and cited the success of a similar scheme in Israel, which is not almost fully open again.

Mr Argar said: "What we are seeing here is that there are a number of things we've had to do as a country and individuals over the past year that I don't think any of us would choose to do or want to do.

"But the nature of this disease has meant we've had to do some fairly unpalatable things that we would not have chosen to do.

"Look at for example other countries like Israel, which have had a high level of vaccination and are beginning to see how they can open up their economy and country faster.

"They have something called 'green passes' – I think it is right that we look at this and see is there a way this could, in the short-term, speed-up our reopening of the country and getting back to doing the things we love?

"I don't think anyone would wish to do it but I think it is right that it is looked at as, can this help us go a little bit faster and get our country back to normal?"

The system will be trialled at nine pilot events over the next few weeks, where experts will also explore how high-tech ventilation and Covid tests on entry are working.

Mr Johnson will study the feedback to help decide how to manage other large-scale gatherings as restrictions are lifted.

The PM said: “We are doing everything we can to enable the reopening of our country so people can return to the events, travel and other things they love as safely as possible, and these reviews will play an important role in allowing this to happen.”

Liverpool will be a key test centre for the opening up of the rest of the country — with four pilot events being held at a comedy club, a cinema, a nightclub and a business conference arena from next week.

And some fans will be allowed at Wembley for the Carabao Cup final on April 25, the FA Cup final on May 15 and a semi-final on April 18.

The World Snooker Championship in Sheffield and a mass participation run at Hatfield, Herts, are also involved.

Scientific advisers will use evidence from the nine pilots to assess transmission risks in different settings.

An insider said: “These events will not only be used to try out the new Covid passport.



 

 

"We’ll have lots of eyes and ears and systems gathering a mass of data.

"What we learn in the next few weeks will be crucial to how we proceed into step three of the unlocking process on May 17.”

A review of social distancing will address a looming decision — how and when the one-metre rule and working for home guidance can safely be lifted.

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