UK drops plans for mandatory Covid passports in pubs and restaurants

Government review expected to recommend vaccine certificates only for larger events such as theatres and sports arenas

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Last modified on Wed 28 Apr 2021 11.19 EDT

Compulsory Covid passports to enter pubs and restaurants are now off the menu and the government’s review is likely to recommend that documents are required only for larger events.

Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, is expected to set out progress on the review into Covid certification in a written statement to the Commons on Thursday, the Guardian understands.

Plans for the use of so-called “vaccine passports” had sparked considerable anger among Conservative MPs, though Boris Johnson had suggested in several interviews that he backed their use.

Cabinet Office sources confirmed the inquiry was prioritising the use of Covid certificates – which would show proof of vaccination, a recent test, or antibodies from having previously caught the virus – for larger events in places such as theatres, music venues or sports arenas.

A Whitehall source said the team looking into the measures had decided to focus attention on “higher-risk settings that are not open and big events” rather than measures to facilitate their use in smaller settings like pubs.

The inquiry has not ruled out letting landlords and restaurant owners make their own judgments about terms of entry. The Cabinet Office had been looking into whether those venues thta required certification on entry could be allowed to relax social distancing rules – a regulation that would be a major incentive for venues operating at far lower capacity under the current restrictions.

Gove and the deputy chief medical officer for England, Jonathan Van-Tam, visited Israel recently to study the country’s green pass system, which is used for entry to all restaurants, bars, gyms, hotels, theatres and other venues. The pass is not required for people sitting outdoors.

He praised the scheme recently in an article for the Sunday Telegraph, in which he said the system had allowed Israel to “accelerate its citizens’ returns to nightclubs, football stadia and theatres with these certificates”.

The government is intending to use a modified NHS app that could also be used for international travel. Paper documents will be provided for people who do not use smartphones.

Officials have also taken evidence on the legal risks of the system, including whether it might contravene the European convention on human rights and what it might mean for employment rights.

The transport secretary, Grant Shapps, confirmed on Wednesday that international travellers will be asked to demonstrate their Covid vaccination and testing status using the app.

Shapps said work had started on developing the app that many people use to book appointments with their GPs so it can show whether they have been vaccinated and tested for the virus.

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