Boris Johnson ‘must get G7 to back global Covid vaccine passport’ – Tony Blair

Former prime minister Tony Blair has called on Boris Johnson to use the G7 to push a global coronavirus vaccine passport scheme.

Cabinet minister Michael Gove said on December 1 that there were no plans for a passport for those who have been vaccinated, though the Telegraph reported on Sunday the Government is funding at least eight separate firms to develop such a product, which is already in use in countries in the Middle East and Asia.

Mr Blair said the UK needed to take advantage of its presidency of the G7, which aims to meet in Cornwall in June, to lead the drive for a global vaccination passport to allow borders to reopen safely and travel to resume.

He told the Telegraph on Thursday there were two significant risks if Mr Johnson did not convince his fellow leaders to back such a scheme.

“One is that everyone just does their own thing, which is much more chaotic and difficult to manage. Or secondly, there’s a set of rules in place that you may not be that happy with.”

Zurab Pololikashvili, the UN World Tourism Organisation’s secretary-general, last week told the Global Tourism Crisis Committee in Madrid: “Vaccines must be part of a wider, coordinated approach that includes certificates and passes for safe cross-border travel”.

The leaders of Spain, Italy, Greece, Cyprus and Malta have called for the introduction of certificates which designate if a traveller has been vaccinated or not.

On Monday, Australia’s education minister, Alan Tudge, said planned “digital vaccine certificates” would allow international students to return to study in the country without the need for them to hotel quarantine.

Mr Blair spoke with the Telegraph ahead of a new report by the Tony Blair Institute which argues the more restrictive travel rules introduced by the Goverment this week could eventually be more easily repealed if a universal vaccine scheme were in place.

“It’s better to have common rules and a common verification system, so that people know what your disease status is and know it with some validation,” he said.

He said the PM could make use of the summit’s timing in June, before significant enough vaccination numbers prompt the resumption of international travel, to push the G7 to lead discussion on a global programme.

Derek Jones, chief executive of luxury travel firm Kuoni, said many people are “very optimistic” about being able to travel from the second half of 2021 and the industry is expecting a spike in demand.

Meanwhile, new research from Imperial College London’s react study shows the number of people infected with coronavirus is at the highest level recorded in England since May.