UK Lawmakers Oppose Government Plan for COVID-19 Certificates

UK Lawmakers Oppose Government Plan for COVID-19 Certificates
A police officer speaks to people sitting outside a pub in Soho in London, England, on Sept. 24, 2020. (Peter Summers/Getty Images)
Alexander Zhang

The British government’s plan to introduce COVID-status certification has met with resistance from lawmakers from across the political spectrum.

In a review published on Monday, the government said it will begin to trial COVID-status certification in certain settings, including large events, as England gradually exits the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus lockdown.

The government said it believes that “COVID-status certification could have an important role to play both domestically and internationally” to “allow some freedoms to be restored more safely.”

The COVID Recovery Group (CRG), a group of Tory MPs who are sceptical about COVID-19 lockdown measures, said that “Parliament must give approval” if the government wants to introduce COVID certificates.

“Trying to do it by the back door by linking them to social distancing rules isn’t on,” CRG chair Mark Harper wrote on Twitter.

The Liberal Democrats also reiterated their opposition to the idea.

“By rolling out COVID ID card trials this Government is going to damage businesses and our freedoms. @LibDems are clear, we will oppose these illiberal, unworkable and unnecessary plans,” said Ed Davey, leader of the Liberal Democrats, on Twitter.

Jonathan Ashworth, shadow health secretary for the main opposition Labour party, said he would not support such certificates for everyday activities.

"I'm not going to support a policy that—here in my Leicester constituency—if someone wants to go into Next or H&M they have to produce a vaccination certificate on their phone," he told the BBC’s Breakfast programme on Tuesday.

Minister for Vaccine Deployment Nadhim Zahawi defended the idea, saying: “It's only responsible as we see how this virus behaves, as we see how other countries are utilising technology to make sure that they keep the virus under control, then we should look at the same thing."

The government said in the review that other countries are already developing their own certification systems, such as Israel’s “Green Pass” and the European Union’s “digital green certificate.”

Zahawi told Sky News that any scheme would be designed not to be discriminatory, suggesting it would involve data on COVID-19 tests, not just vaccines. But he added no decision had been taken, and lawmakers would get a vote on any plans.

Last week, dozens of British parliamentarians from across the political spectrum joined hands in opposition to the possible introduction of COVID-status certificates.
Sir Keir Starmer, leader of the main opposition Labour Party, said in a newspaper interview that requiring vaccine passports for social activities would be against the “British instinct.”

Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the influential 1922 Committee of backbench Conservative MPs, called COVID-19 certification “divisive and discriminatory.”

Representatives of the British pub industry also wrote to Johnson to express their “outrage” at the idea of introducing COVID-19 certification for hospitality venues.

“This could prevent millions of young people visiting the pub for months, unless they get themselves tested in advance,” they said.

Reuters contributed to this report.