Concerns in UK over potential introduction of Israel-style vaccine Green Pass

PM Johnson says he’s ‘thinking very deeply’ about the matter; unsourced report says British ministers to consult with Israeli counterparts on matter

A member of staff pours a drink, at the Dispensary pub in Liverpool, England, Oct 12, 2020 (AP Photo/Jon Super)
A member of staff pours a drink, at the Dispensary pub in Liverpool, England, Oct 12, 2020 (AP Photo/Jon Super)

As the UK weighs the introduction of a vaccine passport to allow entrance to some venues, with consultations reportedly set to take place between British ministers and their Israeli counterparts, some have started to express concerns about the potential program.

Israel has established a domestic “Green Pass” system that allows people who have been vaccinated or recovered from the coronavirus to participate in various activities, including indoor dining, shows and sports events.

And now the UK government is studying proposals for “coronavirus status certificates” and says it will lay out its plans next month.

According to an unsourced report in the Mail on Sunday, British ministers will discuss the matter with their Israeli counterparts, although it is expected that they will not adopt the Israeli technology used in the scheme.

Customers enjoy dining at restaurants after they were recently reopened, in Tel Aviv on March 7, 2021. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

However some British lawmakers are concerned about suggestions that people may have to prove they have been vaccinated in order to travel, attend mass events or even go to the pub.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson conceded last week that there were “moral complexities” around the proposal, since some people cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons, and Steve Baker, an anti-lockdown MP from Johnson’s party, said the potential certification was a “dangerous path.”

Social psychologist Stephen Reicher, who advises the UK government, claimed that vaccine passports could deter the vaccine-hesitant from getting the shot.

Stephen Reicher addresses the Scottish Parliament, January 30, 2021 (Screen grab)

“People actually aren’t averse to vaccine passports to be able to travel internationally,” Reicher told the BBC. “But when it comes to negative incentives – to, in effect, barring people from their everyday lives, from social activity, then actually they work in a very different way.”

Reicher also claimed that the passes could lead to “other problems like social division and social apartheid.”

The idea of “pub passports” has also been strongly criticized by some British restaurant and bar owners. Kate Nicholls, chief executive of the UKHospitality trade body, said the idea was “unworkable.”

“It is crucial that visiting the pub and other parts of hospitality should not be subject to mandatory vaccination certification,” Nicholls said. “It is simply unworkable, would cause conflict between staff and customers and almost certainty result in breaches of equality rules.”

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson attends a virtual press conference inside 10 Downing Street in central London on March 8, 2021 (HANNAH MCKAY / POOL / AFP)

However, Johnson told told MPs he was “thinking very deeply” about the matter, and said that it “may be down to individual publicans,” the BBC reported.

Britain has recorded more than 126,000 coronavirus deaths, the highest toll in Europe. But the UK’s fast-moving vaccination program has so far given at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to more than half of its adult population.

The British government is gradually lifting a national lockdown. Children returned to school on March 8 and shops, hairdressers and outdoor dining are to reopen on April 12, followed by indoor venues on May 17. Remaining restrictions are to end June 21, if the country is not facing a new virus surge.

Candles are lit during the National Day of Reflection at Blackburn Cathedral, on the anniversary of the first national lockdown to prevent the spread of coronavirus, in Blackburn, England, March 23, 2021 (Peter Byrne/PA via AP)

As Israel celebrates the reopening of its economy spurred by the world-breaking speed of its vaccination drive, restaurant reservations are booming while bars and cafes are teeming. Additionally, a number of countries have said they will recognize Israeli vaccination certificates.

Eying the successful program, the EU has also proposed a European vaccine pass to ease travel, an idea pushed by tourist hotspots such as Greece that are desperate to save their crippled economies.

The proposal by the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, would create a digital certificate to show at airports and border crossings to prove that the traveler has received the shot.

The idea is to allow inoculated tourists to get around restrictions on non-essential travel that have spread across Europe, as a second and third wave of COVID-19 infections brought much intra-EU travel to a standstill.

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