CIVIL rights supporters have hit out at Boris Johnson over the possible misuse of vaccine passports.

The passports have been seen in some quarters as the key to opening up travel again.

But the UK Prime Minister broadened the subject out when he ­suggested the Government was ­exploring their use as ­identification cards for pubs, nightclubs and ­entertainment venues.

He said: “The fervent libertarians will reject [the passports] but other people will think there’s a case for it.”

Johnson has put Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove in charge of its implementation, saying: “We need to thrash all this out, and we’ve got time.”

The vaccine passport programme has gathered pace on the back of a report published in the Royal ­Society under the umbrella of a return to ­travel, and after support from ­Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said that vaccine passports could serve a valuable purpose for opening up travel but she would not support their use for access to public services. She added: “Yellow fever certificates exist for travel to some countries, so there may well be scope for vaccination giving you the ability to do certain things that without vaccination you might not be able to do.

“We need to, firstly, understand exactly what vaccination gives you, in terms of protection against or passing on the virus. And then we do need to think about these ethical issues, about what is it reasonable to say can be accessed with a vaccine certificate, if you had that, and what couldn’t.”

READ MORE: Bringing in Covid vaccine passports would be nothing new

Concerned that our personal ­freedoms would be compromised by ­vaccine passports dressed up as ­identity cards, Big Brother Watch’s director, Silkie Carlo spoke out.

She said: “This dangerous plan would normalise identity checks, ­increase state control over law-abiding citizens and create a honeypot for cybercriminals.”

Health considerations and the pandemic are to the fore but how we open up society again remains a bone of contention.

Sam Grant, head of policy and campaigns at Liberty, said: “We all want to get out of this pandemic as soon as possible – but this must not be at the expense of our rights or freedoms or by pushing people who are already on the fringes of society into ever more precarious positions.

“Any form of immunity passport or certificate would result in a two-tier society, where some people can ­access freedoms and support while others are shut out.

“Even a voluntary scheme could result in many being blocked from essential public services, work or housing. And once these passports have been created for one purpose – like travel – it would be all too easy for their use to be extended and abused.

“We should all be able to live our lives free from unnecessary interference, but any form of immunity passport would rob us of that. Meanwhile this has wider implications too because it could pave the way for a full ID system – an idea which has repeatedly been rejected as incompatible with building a rights-respecting society.

“To get through this, we need to pull together and demand a response that protects us all. That means rejecting strategies like immunity passports which are based on exclusion, division and short-termism. If we don’t stand up against these proposals we could see an eternal lockdown of liberties we currently take for granted.”

While the public are currently ­given certificates when they receive their jags, the vaccination passports will be run on an app basis.

THE UK Government has been in dialogue with the biometric technology group iProov over the smartphone app which will allow the public to upload Covid test results or proof of vaccination using facial recognition software.

The app would be an adaptation of the current NHS Covid-19 app.

While politicians and civil rights groups argue over the best approach to the easing of lockdown and ­whether vaccine passports ­domestically are a price worth paying what of the ­businesses who depend on customers returning?

Hospitality and entertainment are sectors whose businesses have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic.

And their reopening could be dependent on their willingness to accept new vaccine passports this summer.

Keith Breslauer, whose Patron ­Capital business owns one of the UK’s largest pub chains, Punch ­Taverns, is not a fan.

He said: “Covid passports are not necessarily an answer and I frankly feel like other alternatives should be seriously explored as soon as possible.”

While moviegoers who have been desperate to get back out to the ­cinema may be put off by new regulations, either on grounds of principle or because it diminishes their entertainment experience.

Phil Clapp, chief executive of the UK Cinema Association, said: “Passports would lead to additional waiting times, and we want to open to a welcoming environment, not one that excludes anyone that wants to come to enjoy a film. I expect many cinemas just wouldn’t open if these checks were put in place.”