What are vaccine passports and how do they work?

From July 19, everything in England will unlock for the first time since March 2020.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid and Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed on Monday that the final stage of loosening restrictions – Step 4 in Mr Johnson’s road map out of lockdown – will go ahead after a previous delay to last month’s date of June 21.

While people will no longer be legally required to wear face masks or socially distance, Mr Johnson has urged caution and encouraged businesses and large events to enact so-called “vaccine passports”.

Here, the PA news agency outlines everything there is to know about them.

Vaccine passports
People who have been double jabbed and can prove evidence of it will soon be able to travel back from amber countries and not have to quarantine (Andrew Matthews/PA)

– What are vaccine passports?

Vaccine passport is a term that has been given to a certificate to confirm that a person has been vaccinated against coronavirus or that they have recently taken a test which shows they are negative.

They have been rolled out in certain countries, such as Austria, as a way of making sure people infected with coronavirus are not entering certain venues.

In England, the vaccination passport is called the NHS Covid Pass.

– Who can get one?

If you are aged 16 or over, you can get an NHS Covid Pass depending on your vaccination status or Covid-19 test results.

People who have had two doses of the Pfizer, Oxford or Moderna vaccine or one dose of the Janssen vaccine a minimum of two weeks ago are eligible.

Adults who have received Covid-19 vaccine
(PA Graphics)

Others can get a certificate if they have had a negative coronavirus PCR or lateral test result within the past 48 hours. Or, if they have had the virus in the past six months, they can get one after finishing self-isolating.

– How can you get hold of one?

It is digital, so it needs to be downloaded from the NHS app or NHS website. You can also download it as a PDF or get it sent to you in an email.

The digital versions last for 28 days if you are fully vaccinated and then automatically renew, while if you have a negative Covid test result it is valid for 48 hours. If you have tested positive within the previous six months, the pass lasts up to 180 days after the test.

People who are vaccinated can also have a paper copy sent to them which can be requested online on the NHS website. You do not need a GP referral for it.

Revellers at the Circus Nightclub at Bramley-Moore Dock, Liverpool, for a Covid safety pilot event
Revellers at the Circus Nightclub at Bramley-Moore Dock, Liverpool, for a Covid safety pilot event (Richard McCarthy/PA)

– Where have they been used so far?

The Government has been offering the passes to people who have been taking part in its Events Research programme from June 21.

The programme involves examining the risk of transmission of Covid-19 by people who have attended a series of trial events.

Events chosen included the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley, the Brit Awards, the World Snooker Championship, the Download Pilot music festival and Wimbledon.

– What are the positives of vaccine passports?

In general, the positives of having a vaccine passport include giving people more opportunities to do things they may not be able to do otherwise, such as travelling.

From next week, people who have been fully vaccinated in the UK will not need to quarantine upon arrival from amber list countries.

Separately, politicians have said they could help life resume as normal.

Coronavirus vaccine doses
(PA Graphics)

During an appearance in front of the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) in May, Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove said deploying the passports could help “economic and social life … return more quickly”.

– What are the negatives of vaccine passports?

Last month, MPs on the PACAC published a report which said Covid passports “disproportionately discriminate” against people based on race, religion, age and socio-economic background.

The report said the implementation would “by its very nature be discriminatory” and the MPs found “no justification for introducing a Covid-status certification system that would be sufficient to counter what is likely to be a significant infringement of individual rights”.

The passports have also already been subject to fraud, with some fake versions spotted online already.

– Could they be made a legal requirement?

The Government has not made them mandatory, saying only that it would “encourage” organisers of large, crowded events to use them.

But it has signalled that ministers could still consider mandating them in future in guidance published on Monday, which said: “If sufficient measures are not taken to limit infection, the Government will consider mandating the NHS Covid Pass in certain venues at a later date.”