Covid passports will be discriminatory and must be scrapped, say MPs | Health policy

Covid passports, which will be used by sports fans for the first time at England’s Euro 2020 match on Sunday, will “disproportionately discriminate” based on race, religion, age and socio-economic background, a cross-party committee has concluded.

MPs on the public administration and constitutional affairs committee (PACAC) said that the decision to allow certification, giving people access to events and venues if they test negative for coronavirus or have had the vaccine, could be seen as contempt of parliament.

The damning conclusions come as England football fans prepare to use the NHS app to show they have received two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine and are therefore at low risk of transmitting the disease before being allowed to enter Wembley stadium.

William Wragg, the Tory chair of the committee, said: “We are entirely unconvinced by the case for their introduction.

“As vaccine uptake statistics indicate, any Covid certification system will be a discriminator along the lines of race, religion and age. Frankly, the government needs to scrap any idea of introducing Covid passports.”

A report released on Saturday by the committee concludes that any certification system would discriminate and should be halted.

“The evidence of vaccine uptake is a clear indication that such a system would likely disproportionately discriminate against people on the basis of race, religion and socioeconomic background, as well as on the basis of age due to the sequencing of the vaccine rollout,” the committee found.

In late April, the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, announced that the NHS app would be used as a Covid passport to give holidaymakers the freedom to go abroad to specific “green list” countries.

The committee criticised the government’s decision to make an announcement that pre-empted inquiries of the PACAC and the government itself “without notifying or consulting parliament”. The decision to push ahead with passports could, MPs concluded, be seen as contempt of parliament.

“The policy should have been set out in advance of any decision being taken to enable scrutiny, and the House should have been given the opportunity to vote on the proposals,” the report said.

Internationally, health ministers from G7 countries last week agreed on the need to work together to develop “mutual recognition of testing and vaccination certificates across countries”.

Domestically, a review into the potential use of the certification had been due to report last month, but was delayed and is now expected as part of Monday’s announcement on step four of the restrictions lifting.

In evidence to MPs, the Cabinet Office minister, Michael Gove, acknowledged that the government had been concerned about discrimination because of the low rate of vaccine take-up in some communities.

“We know that for a variety of reasons, of which this committee is familiar, that vaccine take-up among some communities – particularly but not exclusively some BAME communities – was lower, so was there a risk of either direct or indirect discrimination? That is why we wanted to make sure that any form of Covid-status certification also allowed for testing,” Gove said.

A UK government spokesperson said: “We are considering a range of evidence around Covid-status certification, including equality and ethical concerns. The review is ongoing and no final decisions have been taken.”

Spectators for England’s Euro 2020 group matches against Croatia, Scotland and the Czech Republic will have to use Covid vaccine passports. It will be the first time that a sporting event in the UK has required Covid certification.

Fans can use the NHS app to demonstrate they have received two doses of the vaccine at least 14 days before, or they can show a negative lateral flow test taken within the previous 48 hours through a confirmation text, email or print out.

There will be 22,500 fans for England’s group matches at Wembley – 25% of its capacity – and if the vaccine passport system runs smoothly then it could open the way for larger crowds at the Euro 2020 semi-finals and final, which are also being held at the stadium.

While English fans at Wembley can use the NHS app, Scottish fans must take a lateral flow test or request a “Covid status vaccination letter” and Welsh supporters have to ask for a “Covid vaccination certificate”, which according to UEFA can take up to 10 working days to arrive.


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