How will Covid passports work in the UK and who needs them?

A nurse preparing a Covid-19 vaccine Credit: PA

Life in England will almost return to normal on Monday as almost all coronavirus restrictions are eased, but with cases rising across the country many organisations may introduce 'Covid passports' to keep everyone safe - but what are they and how will they work?

Health Secretary Sajid Javid and Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed on Monday that the final stage of loosening restrictions will go ahead on July 19.

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".

Credit: 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.

Lockdown rules in England: What's changing from July 19

What has happened to social distancing and the rule of six?

The 'one metre plus' rule has been scrapped entirely, as of July 19 in England. However, some guidance to maintain social distancing in certain situations will remain in place of the legal restrictions.

Social distancing guidance will continue if someone is Covid positive and self-isolating, or in airports, or other ports of entry, to avoid travellers arriving from amber or red-list countries mixing with those from green list areas.

Limits on social contact in England have disappeared, meaning the end of the rule of six indoors and the limit of 30 people for outdoor gatherings.

Do I still need to wear a face mask?

There is now no legal requirements to wear face coverings - but guidance still encourages using masks in some settings, including hospitals, healthcare settings and in crowded enclosed public spaces.

Has the working from home guidance changed?

The guidance on working from home has gone. It's ultimately down to employers to decide whether to keep staff at home or in the office, but the government say employers are able to plan the return of staff to the workplace.

What about weddings and funerals?

The current limits on numbers of people who can attend weddings, funerals and other life events has ended.

What's happening in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland?

The changes to Covid rules announced by Boris Johnson, only impact England and will not change regulations in Northern Ireland, Wales or Scotland.

The Welsh Government “would like to move together” with other parts of the UK in lifting coronavirus restrictions but will only do so if it is “right for Wales”, health minister Eluned Morgan said on Monday 5 July.

As of July 19, restrictions in Scotland have eased, with all areas of the country moving to level 0. The government is aiming to lift all major restrictions in Scotland by August 9.

In Northern Ireland, some significant restrictions have already been eased including allowing the resumption of live music and the lifting of caps on organised outdoor gatherings.

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

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?

The Covid passport 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.

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The digital versions last for 28 days if you are fully vaccinated and then automatically renews, 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.

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.

Revellers at the Circus Nightclub at Bramley-Moore Dock, Liverpool, for a Covid safety pilot event Credit: PA

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.

Will vaccine passports bring normal life back quicker?

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.

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

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”.

Do vaccine passports limit our freedoms?

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”.

(PA Graphics) Credit: PA Graphics

Several politicians and campaigners say vaccine passports are a step too far after many a time where many civil liberties have already been taken away to combat the virus.

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.”