I appreciate the arguments against the use of COVID-status certification, but I believe that certification is a valuable tool in helping to manage the spread of COVID-19.
As you are aware, in light of the increased threat of the Omicron variant, the Government has decided to enact the ‘Plan B’ measures set out in the summer and designed to prevent the NHS being overwhelmed. This decision is based on three key reasons - the dramatically increased transmissibility of the variant, the unknown severity of Omicron, and the likelihood that there is lower immunity from vaccination when compared to past variants.
‘Plan B’ mandates the use of COVID-status certification, through the NHS COVID Pass, to provide a means of ensuring venues can remain open throughout the winter. These ‘Plan B’ regulations will make the NHS COVID Pass mandatory for entry into nightclubs, and venues where large crowds gather including unseated indoor venues with more than 500 people, unseated outdoor venues with more than 4,000 people and any venue with more than 10,000 people.
The Government has already been encouraging voluntary use of the NHS COVID Pass and over 200 events and venues have already enacted it as a condition of entry including Premier League matches, Reading and Leeds Festivals and the BBC Proms.
I am glad that currently the NHS COVID Pass can still be obtained with two doses of a vaccine, though the Government will keep this under review as boosters continue to be rolled out. Further, a negative lateral flow test will be sufficient evidence to demonstrate COVID-status. I have been reassured that these regulations will be reviewed on the 5th of January, when the Government will provide an update to Parliament.
I appreciate the argument about civil liberties and the use of COVID-status certification, but the Government has only mandated certification in certain venues and a negative lateral flow test will remain sufficient proof. I want to take back our freedoms, as we all do, and I believe that use of the NHS COVID Pass in higher risk settings is a socially responsible approach.
The NHS COVID Pass allows people to safely and securely demonstrate their COVID-19 status through vaccination or a negative lateral flow test. I fully appreciate that those who are vaccinated can still be infected and may still transmit COVID-19 to others but I believe the vaccination plays an important role in slowing the spread of the virus. This is particularly the case in settings where large numbers of people are likely to gather for prolonged periods.
Overall, I believe that the balanced and proportionate measures outlined in ‘Plan B’, including COVID-status certification, will allow us to protect ourselves and our loved ones this winter – and to reduce the pressures on our NHS. They will ensure we take control of our response and stay a step ahead of the virus as we continue to rollout booster doses and strengthen our defences.