Where next for vaccine passports?


Prime Minister Boris Johnson has stated that vaccine passports will not be needed for outdoor service in pubs from April 12. However, the announcement was quickly followed by reports of an official review into allowing pubs and restaurants to scrap social-distancing rules in exchange for asking their customers to present Covid passports.
 
Experts from law firm Schofield Sweeney have been advising businesses on managing the route out of lockdown.
 
While it is becoming increasingly clear that vaccine passports will not be mandatory, there will be significant incentives to take part in the scheme if it means social distancing rules can be lifted. An official review is underway into the use of vaccination passports to help reopen the economy.
 
Ministers said that Covid-status certification ‘could play a role in reducing social-distancing requirements’ in hospitality venues. It seems likely that operators will be left to decide for themselves whether to request proof of people’s Covid status.
 
Under the proposals, individuals would need to scan the NHS app on their smartphone and would only be allowed to enter if they have been vaccinated, had a recent negative test or recovered from the virus in the past six months.
 
Commenting on the proposals, Craig Burman, partner at Leeds-based law firm Schofield Sweeney said: “ The use of vaccine passports may be attractive for some but it is not without legal, moral and enforcement problems for both businesses and frontline staff. Staff will have to make calls about who they let in and ensure they don’t discriminate against specific groups of people. No doubt, the process will be tested publicly on social media and by campaigners.
 
“It will be important to get the message across to customers that vaccine passports fall under a host of other measures taken to keep the public safe, alongside additional cleaning, masks and measures such as table service.”
 
Schofield Sweeney warns the risk to pubs is from enforcement officers who may deem measures insufficient. If venues are to participate in any scheme that allows lifting of social distancing, it will be vital to ensure the rules are rigorously enforced.

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