Covid status certification 'must be inclusive'

Jo Francis
Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has confirmed plans to trial a Covid certification/passport system that is expected to include app and paper-based elements.

iProov: people should be able to show a digital credential on their smartphone, or a paper credential
iProov: people should be able to show a digital credential on their smartphone, or a paper credential

In a statement yesterday (5 April), Johnson confirmed the next stage of the roadmap out of lockdown would take place as envisaged, with Step Two on Monday 12 April involving the re-opening of all shops, personal care such as hairdressers, gyms and outdoor hospitality. 

“As part of our roadmap we’re also publishing today on gov.uk the early thinking on our four reviews, on the safe return of major events, on social distancing, the potential role of Covid status certification, and on the resumption of international travel,” he stated. 

A Covid-status certification system will be developed over the coming months “which could allow higher-risk settings to be opened up more safely and with more participants,” according to a statement from 10 Downing Street. 

The system will take into account three factors: vaccination, a recent negative test, or natural immunity for people who’ve recovered from Covid.

Events pilots will take place from mid-April to trial the system, with Covid-status initially determined through testing alone, “but in later pilots vaccination and acquired immunity are expected to be alternative ways to demonstrate status”.

The FA Cup Final will also be one of the trial events. 

One of the potential technology solutions being funded by the government went into live testing at the start of the year. It uses tech from facial recognition specialist iProov, and identity management systems Mvine. 

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme over the weekend, iProov CEO Andrew Bud said: “We are talking about Covid status credentials, rather than vaccine passports. What’s really important operationally is that the process of checking credentials at the entrance to venues must be inclusive, convenient, secure and respect people’s privacy.

“We think it’s important that people should be able to show either a digital credential on their smartphone, or a paper credential if they don’t have or don’t want to use their smartphone,” Bud said. 

While it is generally accepted that international travel will require some form of certification, the government is also facing a backlash against the general use of such a scheme. 

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove is conducting a review into vaccine certificates that is due to report back on 21 June – the final date in the roadmap out of lockdown. However, international travel is due to resume before that, on 17 May. 

The EU’s Digital Green Certificate aimed at facilitating free movement within the bloc during the pandemic will be available digitally or on paper. 

Security print specialists De La Rue and Tall Group have both pointed out that existing technologies could be repurposed for use in Covid status certification. 

In its roadmap review, the government stated: “The NHS is working on providing individuals with the means to demonstrate their Covid status through a digital and non-digital route, and is working with experts to put security and privacy at the core of this approach.

“As we continue to explore and trial Covid-status certification, we will ensure appropriate Parliamentary scrutiny. The Government will present interim findings from the Covid-Status Certification Review to Parliament later this month.

A new poll from the Ipsos Mori UK KnowledgePanel released at the end of last month found a substantial amount of public support for the use of so-called ‘vaccine passports’ across a range of circumstances.

“There is particularly strong support for their use for people who are travelling abroad (78%), for visiting relatives in hospitals (74%) or care homes (78%),” the organisation stated, along with the findings.

“Seven in ten say they should be needed to go to the theatre or an indoor concert, while six in ten support needing one to go to the pub or eat out in a restaurant, or to go to the gym.” 

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