Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove has confirmed that when restaurants, pubs, cafes, and bars would reopen indoors in England on Monday 17 May, per the coronavirus lockdown “roadmap,” they would do so without customers needing to produce a so-called “vaccine passport.”
It comes after the government has published the latest findings from its review into “covid status certification.” Like when the first set of results were published at the beginning of April, the government was unable to completely rule out the introduction of vaccine passports at some stage in the future. Here’s where the situation is right now; this piece will be updated as reopening progresses.
Will restaurants and pubs need vaccine passports for outdoor reopening on 17 May?
Will restaurants and pubs need vaccine passports when “all legal limits on social contact” are scheduled to be lifted on 21 June?
This is the one remaining unknown regarding COVID certification. On 29 April, in a written statement to the House of Commons, Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove said “the Government has committed to setting out the conclusions of the review ahead of step 4 [set to be introduced on 21 June.]”
Can restaurants and pubs choose to ask customers for their vaccination status independently?
Actually, yes — the government review says “businesses and other organisations are able to ask customers for proof of COVID status in order to access their premises, as long as they are compliant with equalities legislation.” The “as long as they are compliant” part refers to the 2010 Equality Act and its application on matters of “indirect discrimination,” in which denying someone either unable or structurally disadvantaged from getting the vaccine could be judged as unlawful.
Would vaccine passports also protect restaurant and pub workers?
Indirectly, yes, but unlike some American states, hospitality workers have not been made eligible for vaccination in England, and the government has not suggested that special provision would be made.
Do vaccine passports only cover adults who have had two vaccine doses?
No. The full name of the review, “Covid status certification,” allows for more possibilities: Full vaccination; a recent negative test; or antibodies acquired from prior Covid-19 infection within a given time period. These variations are principally designed to ensure they are not discriminatory.
What are the key arguments in favour of vaccine passports that apply to restaurants and pubs?
The main one is that it would, theoretically, allow venues to open without social distancing in place. Indoor reopening on 17 May will take place with social distancing, which limits restaurant capacity and makes some restaurants unviable. By then, government grants to offset that lost revenue will no longer be available, but furlough will still be in place.
Currently, all restrictions are set to be lifted by the 21 June, according to the government’s reopening “roadmap”.
What is known about the impact of vaccination on transmission?
A Public Health England study published on 28 April has found that a single dose of a COVID-19 vaccine can “slash transmission of the virus by up to half,” according to the Guardian. This lends weight to epidemiological arguments in favour of the introduction of vaccine certification — since it could be used to reduce or replace social distancing — much more than those lodged against their introduction on the basis that vaccinated people still transmit COVID-19.