NHS digital vaccine passport app will be ready for summer holidays

·3-min read
The NHS app will be used by holidaymakers in England to prove their coronavirus status to destination countries - Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire
The NHS app will be used by holidaymakers in England to prove their coronavirus status to destination countries - Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire

The NHS app will be ready to be used as a digital vaccine passport in time for passengers to go on their summer holidays from May 17, Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, announced Friday night.

NHSX, the digital arm of the service, is racing to enable the app to be used by holidaymakers to prove that they are fully vaccinated when they arrive at their destination once the ban on travel is lifted from May 17.

There have been fears of delays as sources have reported difficulties over verifying the identity of the app’s user and the need to create a separate secure database of people’s vaccination data.

Its operation is vital because it means British holidaymakers will be able to sidestep expensive PCR tests on arrival in most countries.

At least 20 countries including green-listed Portugal have already indicated that they will accept vaccination certificates as an alternative to PCR tests for holidaymakers to prove their Covid status.

Mr Shapps said: “If needed, people in England who have both vaccine doses will be able to demonstrate their Covid vaccination status via the NHS app from May 17.

“Those without access to the app can request a letter from the NHS proving their vaccination status by calling 119, from 17 May.”

Two thirds of the adult population in Britain has so far been vaccinated. The app, which links directly to people’s medical records and can be used to book appointments, is updated automatically with your vaccination data by your GP.

For those who do not have an app, there is some uncertainty over the use of paper vaccination certificates. Only Greece has so far explicitly said that it will take paper certificates, despite concerns that they are more easily forged.

Rita Marques, Portugal's tourism minister, has said her country would accept only a digital pass because of the risk of fakes. Spain, due to trial its app at more than 40 airports, has said it is in talks with the UK Government over the need for a "mutually recognisable" app.

France is also trialling its own app, while the EU is seeking to harmonise the digital versions by developing a green travel certificate.

IATA, the international body for airlines, is in talks with the Government for its travel pass to carry holidaymakers’ vaccination data alongside digital Covid test data.

British holidaymakers’ test results will not be included in the NHS app which means travellers will have to continue presenting either paper or separate digital versions of their Covid test results.

It also emerged that travellers may have to pay for their lateral flow tests, which are required within 72 hours of departure back to the UK.

The Government has yet to sign off plans for the NHS free tests to be taken by Britons with them on holiday ready for use on their return.

Mr Shapps had described it as the travel equivalent of BYOB (Bring Your Own Bottle) but it was not clear Friday night whether there was agreement for the free lateral flow tests to be used by holidaymakers.

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