Ministers Sign £21 Million Renewable Vaccine Passport Contract

Michael Gove hinted on Thursday that plans for vaccine passports could be dropped because the alleged benefits are “finely balanced” against the “hassle” and “friction” that would come with introducing certification. But the i has reported that ministers have already signed several vaccine passport contracts, including one worth up to £21 million that can be renewed each year.

Speaking in the Commons today, Cabinet Minister Michael Gove said the Government is still reviewing whether Covid-status certifications could be used to help the return of “mingling at the bar” at large-scale pubs and to facilitate major events such as Premier League matches.

Asked whether vaccine passports might be used to reopen the hospitality sector, Mr Gove added: “It might be the case in venues like nightclubs you could see a role for it.” …

He added that in his “own view” any vaccine passport programme “has to be rescinded at some point in the future”.

However, i can reveal that the Government has already signed several vaccine passport contracts, including one worth up to £21 million that can be renewed each year. 

The Department of Health and Social Care earlier this month signed a contract with HH Associates, a subsidiary of outsourcing firm HH Global, to produce paper vaccine passports for people who do not have access to a smartphone or computer.

The contract, worth up to £21 million this year, will see the Surrey-based firm print and post vaccine passports to members of the public in England unable to access their vaccination status for free digitally. The agreement is due to expire in May 2022 but can be extended annually…

People in England who have received two doses of a Covid jab are now able to access their Covid vaccination status via the NHS app, or by printing off a pdf of their certificate for free from the NHS website…

The Government’s website states that the certificates are for those who wish to travel to countries which require proof of vaccination.

But MPs and politicians have accused ministers of opening a backdoor to permanent ID cards without proper Parliamentary scrutiny.

“This is the biggest shift in civil liberties in the history of the United Kingdom. Why is it OK for this to happen by stealth?” said Baroness Shami Chakrabarti, former Director of advocacy group Liberty.

She told i: “This is a recipe for bullying and discrimination with no public consultation or Parliamentary consent. They promised us this was going to happen by consultation, and instead it’s happening by stealth. Liberal and libertarian Conservatives, like all U.K. citizens, must stand up.”

Steve Baker, Deputy Chair of the Covid Recovery Group of Tory MPs, told i: “The Government appears to have decided to introduce Covid-status certification – a two-tier checkpoint Britain – by stealth, without a vote in Parliament.”

He called on the Prime Minister to “pull the plug on that attempt” immediately and for Parliament’s spending watchdog to scrutinise the £21 million annual cost for the paper certificates. 

Details on plans for the introduction of vaccine passports – as well as on mask-wearing rules beyond the fourth and final step of the “roadmap” – are expected by the end of the month.

The i report is worth reading in full.

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