Any system allowing venues such as pubs to exclude people on the basis of their Covid status would not be permanent, the UK culture secretary has said.
Oliver Dowden made the comment as he stressed that ministers were concerned about the civil liberty implications of the proposal, which is the subject of an internal government policy review.
But Dowden said Covid status documents could help to open up the economy, “allowing us to get back to doing the things that we love”.
On Wednesday, Boris Johnson provoked an uproar from the hospitality industry when, in response to a question at the Commons liaison committee, he suggested it might be acceptable for publicans to ban customers who could not produce a certificate showing that they had had a Covid vaccine.
The prime minister was referring to the proposals being considered by the government’s Covid-status certification review, which is looking at how businesses or venues might be allowed to insist on customers showing either proof of vaccination, or evidence of a negative test.
With his select committee comment generating a considerable backlash, Johnson on Thursday stressed that no final decision had been taken and that any scheme was unlikely to come into force until mid-summer anyway, when all adults would have been offered a vaccine.
The Cabinet Office minister, Michael Gove, who is leading the review, also told MPs that antibody status could be another factor giving people a Covid pass, so as to include people who have already had the infection.
In an interview on Sunday on BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show, Dowden stressed that any system that was introduced would be only temporary. “Of course, we would never look to do this on a permanent basis,” he said. “It’s just whether it might be a tool in the short run.”
Dowden said the government’s review was considering the civil liberties concerns about the proposal, as well as its practicality.
But he said: “We’re looking at the benefits it could bring … in order to facilitate further easing of the economy and allowing us to get back to doing the things that we love.”
In a separate interview on the same programme, the Welsh first minister, Mark Drakeford, said that although there were “definitely prizes to be won through domestic vaccine certification”, there were “very big practical and ethical challenges” to address as well.
He said: “What about those who can’t be vaccinated because their health conditions don’t allow that to happen? If it’s a self-certification system, then what reliance can we put on the fact that somebody produces a certificate?”