COVID-19 UK Political Analysis – 12th March 2021Download a PDF of this article
Safe Bet? Any sort of Covid Status Certification plan is very complex.
What will be a lengthy process of lifting the latest lockdown in England has at least now started. Ministers and officials will be nervously waiting to see how large an impact on new case infections and the R number itself is triggered by the return of children to their schools. It is a racing certainty that there will be some adverse effect but the hope (and it is a reasonable one) is that the intense link between infections, hospital admissions and potential deaths will have been broken by the early stages of the vaccination campaign.
Even so, the process of easing restrictions, albeit in a phased fashion, will lead to a rise in cases at some point and despite mass vaccination an uptick in deaths is all but inevitable. This was set out starkly by Profssor Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer for England, in his evidence to a committee of MPs earlier this week. The issue is what, beyond encouraging the frequent washing of hands, social distancing and in certain circumstances facemasks, can be done to cut the risks associated with, in particular, opening the hospitality sector.
In that context, the Government, is now holding a review, headed by Michael Gove, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, into “Covid Status Certification”. This is the notion that through a form of internal passport, citizens would be able to demonstrate that they had been vaccinated and could be considered safe to engage in certain social activities. Mr Gove has been tasked with overseeing the consideration of all the “ethical, legal, equalities, economic, social and practical implications” of any such initiative. This would be separate from an external form of vaccine passport for international movement which the Transport Secretary indicated in the House of Commons yesterday was being actively considered with a Global Travel Taskforce due to report on the matter on April 12th.