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Vaccination Passports – What Effect Could They Have on the UK Economy?

In December 2020, the first vaccine doses against COVID-19 was approved in the UK. Just a few weeks later, the vaccination programme was rolled out.

As of November 2021, 74.8% of the UK population have received a vaccine dose, with 68.2% being fully vaccinated. This has prevented an estimated 143,000 hospitalisations in England, according to Gov.uk.

Vaccination passports have been in discussion since the roll out of the first vaccine doses, as academics, politicians and health experts have tried to find a way to help vaccinated people move around more freely, after many months in lockdown.

But, how do vaccination passports work, and what effect could they have on the UK economy?

Read on to find out more.

How do COVID passports work?

So far, the majority of COVID passports introduced have been through mobile phone apps, allowing each person to generate their own unique QR code or other evidence confirming their vaccination status.

Some apps and venues have allowed testing, so that discrimination against those who haven’t been, or cannot be, vaccinated is kept to a minimum. For those without access to a smartphone, paper copies are also available.

The NHS COVID Pass — a vaccine certificate for travel — was introduced in the UK on 17th May 2021. Many ‘high risk’ venues such as nightclubs and other large events have allowed people to use this pass.

To gain access to this, you must download the NHS app (which is separate to the NHS COVID-19 Track and Trace app) and register through your GP surgery. The pass becomes available two weeks after a second vaccine dose, and again, a paper alternative can be made available.

If an individual has acquired natural immunity, they can also prove this with a positive PCR test within the last six months, as well as a recent negative test result. This is currently included in the pass.

Are COVID passports mandatory?

As of 12th July 2021, businesses and large events have been ‘encouraged’ to use the NHS COVID Pass, according to UK health secretary Sajid Javid.

On 14th September, the Government made a decision that vaccine-only certification would not become mandatory. However, should the autumn-winter plan B be implemented, the passports would be required.

COVID plan B

COVID plan B as set out by the Government, will require the public to make small changes, to drastically reduce transmission.

Should the Covid plan B be implemented, it’s aim will be to communicate clearly and urgently to the public that the level of risk has increased. Vaccine-only COVID passports would be made mandatory in certain settings, as well as face coverings and working from home, where possible.

This will aim to reduce the risk of infection, and therefore prevent the NHS from becoming overwhelmed.

The effect on the economy

The effect of COVID-19 on the UK’s economy has been drastic. Since the start of the pandemic, the Government have borrowed £299 billion from April 2020 to 2021. From April 2021 to 2022, the Government are expected to borrow less, but figures could still top £200 billion. In fact, the implementation of COVID plan B could cost the UK over £18 billion, if it continues to be in place for five months.

Vaccine passports have and will continue to have an effect on the UK’s economy, and even more so if they become mandatory. If less people are able to go to work, and aren’t spending money at local coffee shops or businesses, this will have a significant impact on the figures.

Tourism is also reduced. Only 68.2% of the population are fully vaccinated, and therefore able to access certain venues with their pass. This leaves the rest of the population unable to access said ‘high risk’ venues, and therefore the argument stands that the free-will and choice of the population has been taken away.

On top of this, the 47.8% of unvaccinated population, or those who have only had a single dose, won’t be able to contribute to the recovery of the economy in the same way.

Foreign exchange trading

Naturally, with a struggling economy and vaccine passports that are only available to those who have received their vaccine in a certain country – the value of the pound is affected, and therefore, foreign exchange (forex) trading.

At the time of writing, the value of currency pair GBP/EUR on the forex market is 1.17. This means that one pound can be exchanged for 1.17 euros. This is predicted to rise, and get back to pre-COVID levels by 2022, but the implications caused by the possibility of plan B could see the value of the GBP decrease further.

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