COVID-status certification has been under much discussion in recent days, as the country finally begins to unlock this week. Views are strong both ways – for and against the introduction of them for domestic or international use. Yet it is easy to forget that it was only a few months ago when even discussing COVID-status certification would have been unthinkable, because there wasn’t an approved vaccine for use. It was only in early December 2020 that the Pfizer vaccine was approved in the UK, with the first doses of Astra-Zeneca being rolled-out at the beginning of 2021.
We have come so far. In those short few months, around 32 million people have now been vaccinated. Covid death rates are 92% lower than the January peak. However, with a sad toll of about 150,000 deaths, and many more with long-term effects from the disease, we mustn’t forget how dangerous Covid-19 is. We have come a long way. But are not free and clear of the threat posed by the disease yet.
The challenges come from both the domestic and international settings. Domestically, as we unlock and mix more freely again, scientists predict some rise in transmission. That’s why it’s important to remember that vaccination is part of Three Pillars in dealing with the virus – vaccination, testing and restrictions. Restrictions on social distancing and the requirement to use masks, particularly in enclosed spaces, remain as important as ever.
Internationally, the virus containment and vaccine effectiveness has been put under pressure by new variants of the disease – the South African and Brazilian variants resulting in tough restrictions on entering the UK from affected countries, including compulsory quarantine in specially adapted hotels. MPs who represent areas with major airports are pushing to find a way to promote safe flying. It does seem inevitable that some form of confirmation that a person is not carrying the virus will be needed to do that. If nothing else than to ensure that lengthy compulsory quarantine is not a part of the future of holidays and business travel.
Proof of vaccination for another killer disease, Yellow Fever, has been part of a World Health Organisation international certification programme for decades. Other diseases such as typhoid, tuberculosis, polio and mumps remain internationally prevalent and subject to health controls. However, this is uncomfortable for UK citizens as we have long been free from domestic imposition of this type through an extensive programme of childhood vaccinations. But, sadly, we are no longer a disease-free nation. Covid-19 can be carried silently and anywhere, and it is deadly.
As more of our freedoms are reintroduced, whether to travel abroad, go to the theatre, football matches or festivals, then for our safety and others, testing or proof of vaccination may be needed, particularly for large events. If so, it needs to be as a temporary measure so we can get back on our feet quickly and safely.