Despite opposition from some of its own MPs, the Government has introduced coronavirus legislation which includes the requirement for a ‘COVID pass’ showing vaccination status or a negative test result for entry into some venues. But with memories of the shambolic ‘test-and-trace’ app still fresh in the mind, how will the system work?
With immediate effect, some venues and events are now legally required to check the Covid status of visitors over 18. This applies to:
- Indoor unseated venues with more than 500 people
- Unseated outdoor venues with more than 4,000 people
- Any venue with more than 10,000 people
Where required, people will need to show that they have been fully vaccinated (currently with two doses), have proof of a negative test taken in the past 48 hours, or that they have an exemption. This can be done with an NHS Covid Pass app, or an alternative way of showing a negative test, like a text or an email from the NHS.
Some events are excluded from the rules; these include communal worship, wedding ceremonies, funerals, protests and mass participation sporting events (such as a marathon).
How do I get a Covid Pass?
You can get a Covid pass for domestic use via the NHS App if you’re 18 or over, registered with a GP, and meet any of the following conditions:
- It’s been two weeks since your second vaccination (or single Jansen dose)
- You’ve had a negative PCR or lateral flow test (LFT) result in the past 48 hours, and reported it on the NHS website (this pass lasts 48 hours after the result)
- You’ve had a positive PCR test result in the past six months, and finished self-isolating (this pass lasts for 180 days)
Over-16s can also get the NHS Covid Pass for foreign travel if:
- They have had two vaccine doses (or one Jansen jab)
- They have had a positive PCR test result in the past six months, and finished self-isolating (this pass lasts for 180 days)
What if You Don’t have a GP or a Mobile Phone?
If you don’t have a GP, or a mobile phone, you can access the COVID pass via the NHS website or by calling 119 to request a letter. This only shows your vaccination status (not test results), and has no expiry date.
In Scotland, over-18s must present proof of a negative lateral flow or PCR test taken within the last 24 hours – or proof of vaccination – to enter venues that are part of the scheme, including:
- Adult entertainment venues
- Indoor events with more than 500 people
- Unseated outdoor events with more than 4,000 people
- Any event with more than 10,000 people
People can use the NHS Scotland Covid Status App to show proof, the NHS App (if from England or Wales) or Covidcert NI app (if from Northern Ireland), or else print a paper version.
Under-18s are exempt, as are vaccine trial participants, and those who can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons.
In Northern Ireland, the Covid passport scheme applies to:
- Licensed hospitality premises, including “bring your own” alcohol venues
- Cinemas, theatres and conference halls
- Indoor events with 500 or more attendees with some or all of the audience not normally seated
- Outdoor events with 4,000 or more attendees with some or all of the audience not normally seated
- Events where more than 10,000 people will be present regardless of whether they are seated
People can either show proof of vaccination, proof of a negative lateral flow test taken in the previous 48 hours, or proof of a positive PCR test taken in the previous 30-180 days. The COVIDCert NI app can be used to show proof of vaccination, or a paper version can be requested.
In Wales, people need to show their NHS Covid Pass to gain entry to:
- Cinemas, theatres and concert halls
- Nightclubs and comparable venues
- Unseated indoor live events for more than 500 people
- Unseated outdoor live events for more than 4,000 people
- Any event for more than 10,000 people
Over-16s who have been fully vaccinated in Wales or England can use the pass to prove their status, but it’s only compulsory for over-18s. It’s also available to people who’ve had a negative lateral flow test in the previous 48 hours.
In the latest figures available, for the week ending 1st December 2021), the estimated percentage of the community population that had COVID-19 was:
- 1.64% in England (1 in 60 people)
- 1.98% in Wales (1 in 50 people)
- 2.14% in Northern Ireland (1 in 45 people)
- 1.24% in Scotland (1 in 80 people, week ending 2 December)
To date The Office of National Statistics has identified only “a very small number” of infections consistent with the Omicron variant (B.1.1.529) among Coronavirus Infection Survey participants, not sufficient to produce overall estimates at this time.
See also: Is Omicron More Likely to Cause Coronavirus Re-Infection?