NHS App Will Include Covid-19 "Passports" To Allow International Travel, Grant Shapps Confirms
The core NHS will soon include a feature to show the user's coronavirus testing and vaccine status (Alamy)
Coronavirus "passports" are set to be added to the core NHS app so that British citizens can travel abroad this summer, the transport secretary has confirmed.
Speaking on Wednesday morning, Grant Shapps said that details of how the system will work, as well as which countries people can travel to, will be announced “in the next couple of weeks”.
The government is set to operate a “traffic light” system this summer to indicate which countries are safe for Britons to travel to.
Holidaymakers returning from “green” list destinations will be able to avoid quarantine requirements, though they will still be required to undergo testing for coronavirus prior to departure and upon their return.
Speaking to Sky News, Shapps confirmed that the core NHS app will soon include a form of Covid-19 certification to allow travellers to prove that “you've had a vaccine or that you've had testing”.
"I'm working internationally with partners across the world to make sure that system can be internationally recognised,” he added.
Under the roadmap of lifting lockdown restrictions, non-essential international travel could be allowed to resume from 17 May at the earliest.
Shapps said the government will be able to confirm which countries will be included on the “green list” of approved destinations “in the next couple of weeks”.
But several popular tourist destinations — including Spain, Portugal and Greece — have already said they are looking to welcome British tourists this summer using the Covid passport system.
According to The Times, Spain’s tourism minister Fernando Valdés Verelst and his Greek counterpart Harry Theoharis both confirmed this week that they were in talks with UK ministers regarding reopening their borders to vaccinated travellers.
The EU is currently developing its own vaccine passport system to facilitate international travel this summer, and is reportedly in talks with US officials to ensure mutual recognition.
However, a spokesperson for the European commission said yesterday that “no contacts at present with the UK” on the matter, with British officials understood to be contacting individual member states rather than the bloc as a whole.
UK Ministers have remained largely in favour of the use of vaccine passports in international travel, but debates are still ongoing about their introduction domestically.
Several countries, including Israel, have already introduced a system of vaccine certification under which those who are fully vaccinated can bypass certain coronavirus restrictions and access non-essential venues such as gyms and stadiums.
Boris Johnson told MPs last month that such a system “should not be totally alien to us”, but is now understood to be wavering on whether to introduce vaccine passports for domestic use in the summer.
There are concerns from some groups that the introduction could undermine disabled people's rights and leave businesses open to discrimination lawsuits, with one charity warning their use could “reinforce structural discrimination” faced by disabled people.
The government announced in February that it would conduct a review into the feasibility of a vaccine passport system, with a final decision to be announced ahead of the last stage of lockdown lifting in June.