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COVID passports would be discriminatory and idea should be scrapped, MPs say

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A cross-party group of MPs has said that the idea of COVID passports should be scrapped, describing them as discriminatory.

The Commons public administration and constitutional affairs committee’s report comes as the government reviews the possibility of a system that would prove a person’s vaccination status, or whether they have tested negative for the virus.

They would then be able to access certain venues or events, or be subject to fewer restrictions.

But the committee said that such a system would “by its very nature be discriminatory” on the basis of race, religion, and socio-economic background, as well as age – many younger people are not yet eligible for the vaccine.

“We found no justification for introducing a COVID-status certification system that would be sufficient to counter what is likely to be a significant infringement of individual rights.”

There are also concerns about the data protection risks involved in setting up the system, with the committee saying it “cannot see how establishing the infrastructure necessary for such as system could be an effective use of resources”.

The committee called for the idea of using coronavirus passports domestically to be abandoned.

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It said that the government’s decision to go ahead with a COVID-status certificate for international travel had pre-empted reviews by the government and the committee, without consulting parliament.

“This could be construed as contempt for parliament and this committee, and this policy should have been set out in advance of any decision on the use of a certification system being taken.

“We found the government’s approach on this matter to be all the more unfortunate as it appears to us that demonstrating COVID-status may become a necessary feature of international travel over the coming months and possibly years in order to avoid excessive quarantine and testing requirements.

“As such, any proposals would likely have been looked on favourably by and strengthened through the scrutiny of parliament.”

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The committee called for an assessment of the scheme’s efficacy, a cost-benefit analysis and full financial costings before formal proposals are made.

It also wants to see the scientific evidence behind including venues such as nightclubs, football matches and international travel, but excluding buses, the Underground, and restaurants.

The warning comes ahead of 21 June, the date when the government was expected to lift all remaining COVID restrictions for England, although there is growing likelihood that surging cases of the delta variant (also known as the Indian variant) could see this delayed.

William Wragg MP, chairman of the committee, said: “We recognise the need to formulate an effective lockdown exit, but COVID passports are not the answer.

“We are entirely unconvinced by the case for their introduction.

“Although it is a tool that is being sold as and built with the intention of being for the universal good, it has the potential to cause great damage socially and economically.”

Cabinet office minister, Michael Gove, who is leading the government’s review, has previously said the benefits of a vaccine passports scheme are “finely balanced” and that if such a scheme proved too costly or too much “hassle” for the hospitality industry, then it would not be pursued.