Published: 08:17 GMT, 22 November 2020 | Updated: 08:21 GMT, 22 November 2020
Britons are set to be given Covid ‘freedom passes’ as long as they test negative for the virus twice in a week, it has been suggested.
The details of the scheme are still being ironed out by officials in Whitehall, who hope it will allow the country to get back to normal next year.
To earn the freedom pass, people will need to be tested regularly and, provided the results come back negative, they will then be given a letter, card or document they can show to people as they move around.
The certificate would be stored on a phone, according to sources, and would allow people to live a relatively normal life until the government’s vaccination programme gets up to the speed.
It would even allow Britons to get away without wearing a mask, it is thought, and visit family and friends without the need to socially distance.
A nurse administering a coronavirus test in Stoke-on-Trent. Under new plans, Britons tested twice a week could get a freedom pass
A source told the Telegraph: ‘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.’
It comes after former health secretary Jeremy Hunt threw his backing behind the ‘freedom pass’ concept.
His proposal suggests far less testing, however, with calls for Britons to be tested just once a month before being given their certificates.
The former health secretary has called on ministers to come up with ‘proper incentives’ for people to get tested, self-isolate and receive a vaccine.
His suggestion follows recommendations by behaviour experts advising Downing Street, who said those not infected with the virus should be handed paper wristbands to allow them to return to a more normal life.
The Behavioural Insights team, also known as the ‘Nudge Unit’, also suggested lotteries at testing centres and paying for people’s travel if they go to get tested.
Mr Hunt pointed to the example of Slovakia’s mass coronavirus testing scheme, where all the countries residents aged between ten and 65 – almost four million people – were swabbed for the virus over a single weekend.
Those that tested negative were presented with a paper certificate and told they no longer needed to follow rules ordering them to stay home.
Writing in The Times , the chair of Parliament’s Health and Social Care Committee said Britain should ‘go further’ to encourage more people to get tested for Covid-19.
It comes after former health secretary Jeremy Hunt threw his backing behind the ‘freedom pass’ concept
He warned although the country has a Plan A to end the pandemic – a vaccine – it also needs a watertight Plan B.
‘We should go further, offering people who comply with testing and isolation requirements a “freedom pass” that removes the requirement to follow lockdown regulations,’ he wrote.
‘In Slovakia they gave those with negative results a certificate that released them from curfew and allowed them to go out, shop, and go to work.
‘We should do the same in the UK, using the NHS Covid-19 app to record who has been tested and who has received the vaccine.’
He added putting these plans in place would mean the Government could ‘set a date’ to get back to ‘some kind of normality’, which could be ‘perhaps as soon as Easter’.
However, the government will have to carry out millions of tests per day to ensure either freedom pass scheme works.
The UK is also planning to roll out a nationwide mass testing scheme to beat the virus – called ‘Operation Moonshot’ – by weeding out infections that aren’t causing any symptoms.
It is claimed that ministers were hoping to be carrying out up to 10 million tests a day by early next year as part of a £100 billion expansion of its national testing programme.
At the time, 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.’
It comes as it was revealed that the government is to give Britain a pre-Christmas boost by scrapping the 10pm curfew on pubs and restaurants.
The Mail on Sunday understands that the Prime Minister intends to extend opening hours until 11pm when the second national lockdown ends on December 2. While last orders will still be called at 10pm, people will get an extra hour to finish drinks and meals.
As well as helping the hospitality sector, the plan – expected to be accepted in a crunch Cabinet meeting this evening – will help prevent crowds congregating on the streets at kicking-out time.
The 10pm curfew was widely criticised after its introduction in September and No 10 is determined to show it can both listen to its backbenchers and learn lessons when measures are unsuccessful. The proposal has widespread support. One Minister said: ’10pm last orders and being allowed to stay longer sounds eminently sensible.’
Mr Johnson will on Monday tell the House of Commons and the nation in a televised address that lockdown will end, as promised, on December 2.
The move by Westminster to extend the curfew in England is expected to put pressure on the devolved nations to follow suit.
He will also set out details of a new winter plan to tackle Covid, including a revised three-tier structure for restrictions. The new framework will run until the spring in a move designed to give businesses and the public more confidence and clarity while work continues on approving vaccines and a mass immunisation project.
There is growing confidence that positive results from a trial of a vaccine being developed by Oxford University and the pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca are ‘imminent’. Vaccines produced by Pfizer and the US firm Moderna have already been shown to be almost 95 per cent effective.
One Government insider said: ‘There is a possibility that one day soon we will wake up and Brexit will be done and we’ll have the Oxford vaccine.’
However, the revised tier system unveiled by Mr Johnson is expected to see more areas enter the highest third level. The final decision for which areas go into which tiers will be taken on Thursday.
While almost all shops will be allowed to reopen, bookmakers and so-called ‘wet pubs’ that do not serve food may be required to remain closed in places with the highest infection rates. There may also be harsher controls on households mixing indoors. ‘The new Tier 3 will look a lot tighter than the old version,’ a Government source admitted.
However, restrictions on playing sport are set to be relaxed, while Ministers are having detailed discussions about allowing crowds in open-air stadiums – but the main sticking point is how to get fans to and from the events without risking infection on public transport.
Seeking to bolster confidence, Mr Johnson said in a speech yesterday: ‘My first message is ‘thank you’ for what you have done over the last very difficult eight months, my second is that there is hope on the horizon.’
Mass rapid coronavirus testing being used in Liverpool will be rolled out across in nearly 70 more local authorities, the Health Secretary said this month.
Matt Hancock revealed areas including Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire and the West Midlands will receive the rapid Covid-19 tests.
London, Birmingham, Manchester and Coventry are also among the cities to get a batch of tests.
At least 600,000 lateral flow tests have been sent out across the UK to kick-start the next stage of mass coronavirus testing, which ministers hope could finally send the virus packing.
Mass coronavirus testing being used in Liverpool will be rolled out across 66 local authorities, the Health Secretary said
The antigen tests can tell if a person is currently infected with coronavirus – even if they have no symptoms – and the technology can give results within an hour.
Every resident in Liverpool has been able to get tested for the disease since Friday, when the major army-backed scheme was first launched. The city, home to 500,000 people, was the first to be involved with No10’s ambitious ‘Operation Moonshot’ — a mission to screen millions of asymptomatic people every day.
Speaking on Sky News on November 10, Mr Hancock claimed 66 local authorities had already expressed interest in the mass-testing scheme. More are expected to sign up in the coming weeks.
Despite Mr Hancock saying it was 66 authorities, the Department of Health released a list of 67 authorities that will get the rapid tests.
He added: ‘I can confirm we are rolling out the sort of mass testing we are seeing in Liverpool, and indeed we earlier piloted in Stoke-on-Trent, across 66 local authorities.
‘Last night I wrote to the directors of public health of all local authorities in England saying we can make available these brilliant new lateral flow tests that give results in 15 minutes, and we can make them available to directors of public health right across the country.
Mr Hancock also said that mass testing, like a vaccine roll-out, would be across the UK not just England.
He added: ‘The UK Government has bought the vaccine for the whole of the UK and it will be rolled out fairly across the whole of the UK with the same prioritisation no matter where you live in this country.
‘The same goes for mass testing, making sure we roll that out across the whole UK.’
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News – Britons who test negative for Covid set to receive a ‘freedom pass’