Known to detractors as “vaccine passports”, Boris Johnson’s government has been discussing the possibility of implementing what they have, rather clumsily, called a ‘COVID-status certification system’. Although the extent of these measures is currently unknown, the point is to control access to certain public spaces and facilities in a bid to safeguard the progress that has been made over the past few months of total lockdown. It might mean less infections and less deaths, even if it might also mean a slower return to normal than has been promised.
To gain access, you’ll need to prove that you aren’t contagious, which might mean a few different things; you might have already had COVID-19 and developed natural immunity, have received two doses of a vaccine or have recently tested negative for the virus. Any of these outcomes might win you a “vaccine passport” – although, as should be clear by now, that designation is more than a little off the mark. Of course, all of the logistics remain uncertain. But these certificates, as we’ll be calling them from now on, are a nascent possibility – and they will transform British society for the foreseeable future.
So what can we expect? Well, Hatfield House have recently announced that they will be trialling the use of certificates at a fun-run at the end of the month. It’ll be a “pilot project” for a wider roll-out of the certification scheme, so its success or failure matters for all of us. The event will host 3,000 runners and around 3,000 spectators, all of which will need a certificate. Picturing the scenes, however, of all of the competitors huddled eagerly behind the start-line and the spectators squashed up against the barricades, cheering on friends, partners, relatives – well, it’s enough to make anyone a little fidgety. How could it possibly be safe?
According to the Watford Observer, the NHS has been working on ways to provide ‘digital and non-digital routes’ for certification. As a result, attendee, in signing up for the event, might be required to provide digital certification, before even stepping foot on-site. Alternatively, each attendee signs up online and when the day comes, must enter the site through a safe, well-regulated entrance, where people are socially-distant and masked-up, and must provide proper certification. Potentially, this latter option could be safer, as it might provide the most up-to-date information on a person’s contagiousness but, of course, the actual process of checking certificates at the door might do more harm than good.
Nevertheless, one of the simplest and most expedient ways to verify someone’s contagiousness is to give them a rapid test. Now, you may have all seen the government’s pledge to give out free rapid tests to all Britons, as many as two a week. Such schemes demonstrate the government’s belief in their validity and effectiveness. Therefore, rapid tests might be used to mediate the risks of the certification system – out-of-date certifications or dubious time-limits on non-contagiousness – by mandating the use of rapid tests in facilities which require certification.
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