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NHS app could house controversial Covid-19 ‘vaccine passport’

The official NHS application could display Covid-19 testing and vaccination status, according to plans reportedly being considered by the UK government.

As the United Kingdom examines ways to reopen the country safely, the government is mulling several strategies to people to return to a semblance of normal life without putting others at risk.

One of those is a controversial ‘health passport’ that could enabled those with a recent negative test or vaccine to attend public events like nightclubs concerts and sporting venues where social distancing isn’t possible.

The NHS Covid 19 app many of us already have on our phones has been primarily used for contact tracing purposes, and has been downloaded 21 million times. However, the official NHS app is understood to be preferred for health passport purposes because of its existing ability to display medical records and vaccine status (via Guardian).

The idea, in theory, would enable the public to show their status upon entry and prove that they’ve been vaccinated against Covid-19 (presuming the vaccine limits transmission), or can refer to a recent negative test.

However, such a scheme would be hugely controversial and could affect certain sectors of the public who may find it more difficult to access testing and vaccinations. It also raises questions over a growing impingements on civil liberties and whether businesses could choose to discriminate against those unable to prove their status.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson says there are “deep and complex issues” surrounding so-called immunity passports. The PM says a new Covid certification review conducted by Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove will collect “the best scientific, moral, philosophical, ethical viewpoints on it and will work out a way forward.”

Johnson added: “This is an area where we’re looking at a novelty for our country, we haven’t had stuff like this before, we’ve never thought in terms of having something that you have to show to go to a pub or a theatre. There are deep and complex issues that we need to explore, and ethical issues about what the role is for government in mandating or for people to have such a thing or indeed in banning from people doing such a thing.”

Would you be willing to show a negative test or proof of a vaccine in order to attend a concert, for example? Let us know @trustedreviews on Twitter.