// Covid vaccination passports – either in paper form or on an NHS app – may be needed for shoppers to enter some shops
// They won’t be introduced when shops reopen next week but maybe later this year
// The government faces fierce opposition to this, with Labour and several Tories against it
The UK Government has hinted that Covid vaccination passports may be needed for shoppers to enter some shops later this year.
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson suggested that the UK was moving towards a system of vaccine passports, although certain “essential areas” of life would be unaffected by it.
A government spokesman has since confirmed that such passports would not be needed for when non-essential retail reopens across England and Wales next Monday.
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However, the documents – either in paper form or on an NHS app – could be introduced later this year.
A government review into “Covid status certification” found they could “potentially play a role” in settings such as theatres, nightclubs and mass events, and might also be used in pubs and restaurants to reduce social distancing restrictions.
The prospect of having to show a certificate to access shops or bars has outraged members of the Covid Recovery Group (CRG) of Conservatives, while Labour hit out at the “discriminatory” and “poorly thought-through” proposals.
The government’s review also suggested that if an official system is not introduced, businesses – including retailers – could still ask customers for proof of Covid status in order to access their premises anyway.
While the interim findings of the government’s review said public transport and essential shops or services would not require vaccine passports, it left open the prospect of non-essential retailers being forced to check on their customers.
When asked if they might be needed for customers to be able to access high street shops at a later stage this year, the spokesman told The Times: “We are looking at how Covid status certificates could have an important role to play domestically as well as internationally,” he said.
“We will come forward with more detail on them and how they may work in due course.”
Little is known about how the vaccination passports will work and Johnson faces a battle to introduce them after running into fierce opposition from Tory critics and Labour.
The use of certificates – which would include vaccination status, test results or evidence of someone having contracted and recovered from Covid-19 – is opposed by at least 40 Conservative MPs.
With Labour’s opposition also hardening, along with the SNP raising concerns, the government would face difficulties in getting the measures through the House of Commons if Johnson pushed them to a vote.
The BRC also criticised the proposals.
“While Covid status certification may play an important role in certain activities, such as international travel, our members are clear that it would not be appropriate or useful in a retail setting,” chief executive Helen Dickinson said.
“High streets and other shopping destinations rely on impulse and ad hoc purchases from customers who visit; this would be badly affected by the additional barriers to trade.
“Instead, we believe that continuing to follow the existing strict safety protocols, including regular cleaning, face coverings, and regular hand washing are the best course of action to protect staff and customers in stores.”