COVID-19: Michael Gove visits Israel to study country's 'green pass' as he mulls vaccine passport options

April 19, 2021

Michael Gove is visiting Israel to study a COVID "green pass" smartphone app that could soon be the model for vaccine passports in the UK.

The Cabinet Office minister, in charge of a Whitehall study into how coronavirus certification might work in the UK, has been a big fan of the Israeli scheme for weeks.

He is being accompanied on his visit by Jonathan Van-Tam, England's deputy chief medical officer, who is hugely influential in the government's COVID strategy.

It is thought their visit involves meetings with Israel's health minister, Yuli Edelstein, and possibly with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to reports in Israel.

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The visit is also expected to include a tour of testing facilities at Ben Gurion Airport, Tel Aviv, with a view to creating a flight corridor between Israel and the UK.

Israel's "green pass" scheme is used for entry to venues including gyms, swimming pools, restaurants and cafes, hotels, sports venues, theatres, cinemas and exhibitions.

Mr Gove has said previously that while vaccination against coronavirus is a hugely powerful tool it can never provide 100% protection, which is why the government is looking at options such as COVID certification.

In a Sunday Telegraph article on Easter Sunday, Mr Gove wrote about how the Israeli scheme, which uses a smartphone app, could be used in the UK to allow people back into football matches, nightclubs and theatres.

"In Israel, which is one of the few countries to have vaccinated a higher percentage of the population than we have in the UK, they have been using a 'green pass' to get back to normal more quickly," Mr Gove wrote.

"This green pass system allows citizens who've been vaccinated, recently recovered from the virus or who've had a recent negative test to congregate in venues which had been closed for months such as theatres and nightclubs."

Mr Gove has said the government expects more countries to adopt similar tools and require UK citizens to provide proof of their COVID status when travelling abroad, so it is imperative that the government explores how these certificates work.

And he added in The Sunday Telegraph: "If Israel can accelerate its citizens' returns to nightclubs, football stadia and theatres with these certificates, might we?

"The Israeli approach involves a smartphone app and the NHS app could serve a similar purpose here.

"But we must not exclude those who do not have a smartphone, so we're exploring paper-based complements to the app. Privacy and data security must be watertight."

Israel's vaccine rollout is considered to be one of the most successful in the world, with nearly five million people - or 53.5% of the population - now fully vaccinated.

As a result, on Sunday the Israeli authorities lifted a rule requiring people to wear a mask outdoors in public.

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