Britons who test negative for Covid twice in a week are set to receive a 'FREEDOM PASS'

A nurse administering a coronavirus test in Stoke-on-Trent. Under new plans, Britons tested twice a week could get a freedom pass


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 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.

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.

'This meant 97 per cent of the eligible population was tested.

'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.

At the moment, testing capacity is at about 500,000 per day.

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.

If achieved, the programme would allow testing of the entire UK population per week.

A similar scheme to the freedom passes was first suggested in April.

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.'


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