Exclusive: Two Covid tests a week could win people a ‘freedom pass’
People are set to be given "freedom passes" to allow them to live as normal a life as possible as long as they have two negative coronavirus tests a week, under a plan to get the country back to normal next year.
Under the scheme, which is still being developed by Whitehall officials, people could be given the passes as long as they can show they have been regularly tested for Covid-19.
People who are found to be Covid-free would be given a card, a letter or document that can be stored on their phone to show they can move around. Regular tests would be needed to ensure that they qualify for the certificates.
A freedom passport would help the nation return to a more normal life, without social distancing rules and restrictions
A source familiar with the plans said that the scheme would allow people to lead as normal a life as possible while the Government’s vaccine programme gets up to speed on a mass scale early in the new year.
The source said: "They will allow someone to wander down the streets, and if someone else asks why they are not wearing a mask, they can show the card, letter or an App."
The source added that the passes would allow people "to see their family, and normal social distancing rules will not apply".
The plan has already received the backing of Jeremy Hunt, the former Health Secretary, who last week said he supported "offering people who comply with testing and isolation requirements a ‘freedom pass’ that removes the requirement to follow lockdown regulations".
Mr Hunt also urged Boris Johnson to set an Easter deadline to return to a more normal life through mass testing with rapid home testing kits, even if vaccines have not come through by then.
Mr Hunt has been urging the Government to go further and give people an incentive to be tested by allowing them “to go out, shop and go to work” if they test negative.
The Government will have to be carrying out millions of tests a day for the freedom pass scheme to work.
Ministers have been making steady progress so far, with the Government successfully hitting its target of being able to carry out 500,000 coronavirus tests a day across the UK by the end of last month.
A report in the British Medical Journal in September claimed that ministers were hoping to be carrying out up to 10 million Covid-19 tests a day by early next year as part of a £100 billion expansion of its national testing programme.
If achieved, the programme would allow testing of the entire UK population per week.
A similar scheme to the freedom passes was first mooted in April when ministers were said to be looking at issuing immunity certificates to people who have developed resistance to coronavirus.
Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, said: “(An immunity certificate) is an important thing that we will be doing and are looking at but it’s too early in the science of the immunity that comes from having had the disease.”
“It’s too early in that science to be able to put clarity around that. I wish that we could but the reason that we can’t is because the science isn’t yet advanced enough.”
That same month the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned governments against issuing “immunity passports” to people who have been infected as their accuracy could not be guaranteed.
The WHO said issuing the certificates could inspire false confidence and increase the risk of spreading the virus. People who have recovered may ignore advice about taking precautions against the virus.
On Saturday night a Department for Health and Social Care spokesman said that guidance on infection and control measures was "constantly under review to ensure we can return to normality as soon as possible while controlling the spread of the virus".