PA Images via Getty Images
Pubs, restaurants, nightclubs and sporting events are being urged by the government to use ‘Covid passports’ – even after so-called Freedom Day next Monday – to curb the spread of the virus.
Businesses operating in “high risk settings” with little indoor ventilation will be “supported and encouraged” to use a certification system to check which customers have had either a recent negative test or have been double-jabbed.
Among those who take part, access to venues would be restricted to people who have an “NHS Covid Pass” on the NHS App or emailed or texted proof of a negative lateral flow test from Test and Trace within the last 48 hours.
Both checks have been used in trial runs of mass spectator events like Wimbledon and Euro2020, but using the system for indoor hospitality and nightclubs even after restrictions are legally lifted would be a big step,
Health secretary Sajid Javid revealed the advice as he formally confirmed to MPs that all legal lockdown restrictions will be lifted from July 19.
The Covid “certification” idea, which had been assumed to have been effectively killed off, is seen by the government as a way of helping keep down the number of infections during the current third wave, as well as offering a further incentive to the public to get vaccinated.
Nightclubs, which have been closed since the first lockdown in March last year, will be allowed to open their doors from next Monday but will be encouraged to use certification to minimise the risks.
The certificates will not become compulsory and it will be left to individual firms whether they use them, but they could start as early as next Monday
It is understood the government does not intend to be prescriptive about which businesses use the certification system.
Javid told MPs the new plan was about “the safe and gradual approach that we’ll be taking for the summer”.
“It includes details of how we’ll be encouraging businesses and large events to use certification in high risk settings to limit the risk of spreading infection,” he said.
The prime minister’s official spokesperson added: “Businesses and large events will be supported and encouraged to use certification in high risk settings to help limit the spread of infections in their venues.”
Full details will emerge when the guidance is published in coming days.
Javid told MPs that it was the “right time to get our nation closer to normal life”.
“To those who say ‘why take this step now’ I say ‘if not now, when?’,” he said.
“There will never be a perfect time to take this step because we simply cannot eradicate this virus.”
Some 34.5 million people have had two jabs to date, more than the two thirds of the adult population that Boris Johnson expected for so-called “Freedom Day” on July 19.
Although No.10 insists that the “unlocking” process will proceed as previously set out by the PM last week, there has been a marked shift in language away from personal responsibility towards the government saying how it would prefer the public to behave.
Following unease among scientists about the wholesale ditching of mask-wearing, ministers have talked about encouraging or recommending face coverings should still be worn in crowded or enclosed spaces or whether lots of strangers are gathered.
Similarly, there appears to be a shift from the “Big Bang” approach to urging caution in areas like getting workers back into the office.
“While government is no longer instructing people to work from home, if they can, we expect and recommend a gradual return to the workplace over the summer,” the spokesperson said.
“We expect and recommend that people wear face coverings in crowded areas such as public transport.”