UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to unveil a series of measures including so-called “Covid passports” to allow mass events such as sports matches and night clubs to resume safely as England’s lockdown is eased in phases.
In announcements expected on Monday, Johnson is expected to lay out details of trial events in the coming months that will explore how ventilation and testing before and after events could help audiences back into arenas and auditoriums over a year after being shut down to control the spread of the deadly virus.
The pilot schemes involving what is being dubbed as “Covid-status certification” will include the football FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium in London and are expected to involve a smartphone app or a paper certificate.
The trials will last until mid-May, when the next phase of lockdown easing is scheduled before a complete easing of restrictions by June 21 under Johnson’s roadmap.
Vaccination is a hugely powerful tool, but it can never provide 100 per cent protection. That is why we need to look at every option potentially available to ensure the fastest, safest and most sustainable road back to normality, writes Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove in The Sunday Telegraph’.
“Given the hit the night-time economy and the entertainment sector has taken over the last year, anything which might help businesses reopen sooner must be worth considering. The Israeli approach involves a smartphone app and the NHS app could serve a similar purpose here,” notes the minister, who has been leading a review into the process.
According to the BBC, the first pilot event will be a comedy night in Liverpool on April 16, where audience members will be tested for Covid before and after the show.
Professor Iain Buchan, of the University of Liverpool, will be helping to run testing for the Liverpool-based trials and said taking part in the Liverpool pilots would involve “giving your consent to take part when you book a ticket; receiving text messages about hands, face, space, fresh air; minimising unnecessary contacts before the event; getting tested within 36 hours, ideally as close to the event as possible; ideally having a test earlier in the week”.
He added: “Don’t go on the day if you have any symptoms. All the events will be in very well-ventilated places and the ventilation will be studied, and people will be asked to minimise contacts and get another test five days after, for the purpose of research.”
However, critics of these plans, including more than 40 parliamentarians from Johnson’s Conservative Party and privacy campaigners, have suggested that such Covid passports could prove counter-productive.
Downing Street has also indicated that ministers are finalising plans to allow overseas travel through a traffic light system approach, with countries designated as red, amber and green based on their Covid risk levels.
Non-essential international travel remains banned under current lockdown rules and the government advice continues to go against booking any overseas trips for summer holidays at this stage.
It comes as the National Health Service (NHS) released latest figures that show over 5 million adults in the UK, nearly one in 10, have now received their second of the two-dose vaccines to protect against Covid-19.
“Our spectacular vaccination programme has now delivered over 5 million second doses, giving those most vulnerable to Covid including half of all those aged over 80 the best possible protection,” said UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
Overall, 36.6 million doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines have now been administered across the country to all over-50s.
The coronavirus has claimed 127,068 lives in the UK, along with over 4.3 million confirmed cases, so far, according to Johns Hopkins University.