Vaccinated Brits could get QR codes that allow them to travel abroad

Vaccinated Brits could be given scannable QR codes that allow them to travel abroad as soon as NEXT MONTH as part of Covid ‘vaccine passport’ schemes funded by the taxpayer

  • At least eight companies have been awarded Government grants to develop tech
  • Grants worth £650,000 were given out by Gov innovation agency InnovateUK
  • No10 publicly denies it’s going down route of controversial vaccine passports

Vaccinated Britons could get scannable QR codes as soon as next month, allowing them to travel abroad as part of coronavirus ‘vaccine passport’ schemes funded by the taxpayer. 

At least eight firms have been awarded Government grants to develop schemes that would allow users to carry digital proof that they have received an approved Covid-19 jab. 

The projects, given a total of £450,000 between them, aim to provide a way to get people back to work and reopen international travel without the risk of fuelling the pandemic.

The grants have been dished out by InnovateUK, a non-departmental public agency which claims it ‘operates at arm’s length from the Government’. 

Logifect, a Kent firm handed £62,000 in grants, has designed a phone app linking to a digital passport that includes a photo of them. It is due to launch next month, The Telegraph reports.

London-based iProov and Mvine, in Surrey, have been given £75,000 for their joint effort, according to the newspaper. They are developing digital ‘certificates’ that would provide people with confirmation of their vaccinations. 

Executives at all three firms have said they plan to pitch their technologies to the Government before the current national lockdown ends. 

Number 10 has publicly denied it is going down the route of controversial vaccine passports, which are feared could make voluntary vaccination mandatory by proxy. 

Critics also argue it would in effect create an ‘apartheid’ system between those who have the virus and those who do not. 

However, sources say ministers are coming round to the idea that some form of system could be useful in the future as a risk-averse way of keeping the economy open. 

Vaccinated Britons could be given scannable QR codes that allow them to travel abroad as part of coronavirus ‘vaccine passport’ schemes funded by the taxpayer

At least eight companies have been awarded Government grants to develop schemes that would allow users to carry digital proof that they have received an approved Covid-19 jab. Pictured: Care worker Felicia Melody gets vaccinated with the Oxford-AstraZeneca covid vaccine at the Med Mart pharmacy in Borehamwood today

Another of the recipient projects is led by Enduring Net, which is working on a £49,678 decentralised system that can digitally provide ‘proofs of individuals’ Covid-19 credentials’, which will include proof of vaccination.

EAS Technologies’ project was given £173,876 to develop an accreditation platform that hopes to be used by organisers of the ‘world’s largest sporting organisations, events, and facilities’.

A Covid vaccination centre in London has had to reduce its opening hours because not enough people are coming forward for the jab. 

The John Scott inoculation hub in Hackney, East London, claimed ‘really slow patient uptake’ forced it to close at 2pm on three days last week.

The centre, which is open to patients from 40 GP surgeries, had been administering vaccines from 10am until 8pm every day until the sudden drop-off in appointments.

Health chiefs fear vaccine hesitancy among black, Asian and ethnic minority (BAME) groups is behind the poor uptake in the diverse inner London borough. Around 45 per cent of Hackney’s population is made up of people from BAME backgrounds, predominantly of black African or Caribbean ethnicity.

Numerous surveys have shown minorities – who studies have shown are up to three times as likely to die from Covid – are more reluctant to get the jabs due to a mistrust in the Government.

And a report over the weekend suggested twice as many white over-80s had been for a jab compared to elderly black Britons. 

Dame Donna Kinnair, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing said today officials had been too slow to shut down anti-vaxx myths online.  

Other vaccine hubs and GP practices have already began jabbing the over-60s after successful roll-outs in their areas. Health officials could move to lower risk groups if uptake remains low in Hackney — but the priority remains the over-70s, NHS staff, care home residents and workers.

NHS City and Hackney clinical commissioning group said staff have been phoning eligible patients who have not turned up to try to convince them.

A short description on the funding page suggests the project will be used for proving staff and contractors at events have been vaccinated, but could also provide a ‘track and trace’ system for those attending the events. 

It is believed the projects will look at different areas of society such as healthcare settings and public spaces and how passport schemes could help remove the potential danger of unvaccinated people coming into contact.

The scheme is being considered by many countries, including Cyprus and the Seychelles, who hope their use would open up society for people who have received a jab.

Airline Qantas and over-50s travel company Saga have suggested that people wanting to travel with them in future will have to have taken a Covid-19 vaccine before they embark.

UK ministers have contradicted each other on the issue of vaccine passports since they were touted at the end of 2020.

Cabinet minister Michael Gove has said they are ‘not the plan’, but vaccine tsar Nadhim Zahawi has admitted the Government is ‘looking at the technology’.

However, Mr Zahawi has since said there are ‘absolutely no plans for vaccine passporting’ and said ‘mandating vaccinations is discriminatory and completely wrong’.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock last month also denied plans to implement passporting, telling the Spectator: ‘It’s not an area that we’re looking at.’ 

Department of Health sources told MailOnline in December the schemes were ‘exploratory work’ and the systems were not being introduced imminently.

‘It is about looking at ways we could use this in future,’ the source added. ‘It is looking at whether it would be possible,’ they said at the time. ‘There are no plans to introduce immunity passports.’

It comes as tens of thousands nurses have yet to receive a Covid jab, despite the Government aiming to have vaccinated all frontline health staff by next week.

Some 15 per cent of nurses across the country have yet to be given a single dose of the coronavirus vaccine, a poll by the Royal College of Nurses found.

And the number of nurses working in care homes and in the community without the vaccine is greater still, with 44 per cent of agency staff and 27 per cent of temporary staff yet to receive a jab.

The survey of 24,370 nurses comes days before the Government’s February 15 target for vaccinating 15million Britons in the first four priority groups, which includes all health and social care staff and over-70s.

RCN chief executive Dame Donna Kinnair told The Guardian that the findings were ‘extremely worrying’.

She said: ‘Our survey suggests many thousands of nursing staff have yet to be given their Covid vaccine less than a week before the government’s deadline.

‘With only days to go, every effort must be made to reach all nursing staff to ensure their protection and that of the patients and vulnerable people they care for.’

The survey found just seven per sent of all nurses have received two doses of either the Pfizer/BioNTech or Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine.

Scaling the 15 per cent of nurses who have yet to have their first dose to the RCN’s 450,000-strong membership would suggest around 75,000 nurses have yet to be vaccinated.

Of that 15 per cent, just under half (45 per cent) of staff had been offered a vaccine but were either waiting for an appointment or had chosen not to take one.

In total, three per cent of all nurses surveyed were hesitant to accept the vaccine — which would account for some 13,500 staff if scaled up to the RCN’s membership.

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