Vaccine Passport for International Travel Will Soon Be on NHS App, UK Govt Confirms

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Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) app will work as a ‘vaccine passport’ for British travellers to prove that they have been vaccinated when they go on foreign holidays, the government has confirmed.

The app, maintained by the health service’s technology arm NHSX, is already in use for Britons to book appointments, view their health records, and request repeat prescriptions.

The new service will go live from Monday, May 17th, and is available for those living in England, per a Times report on Tuesday. The measures have been brought in as some countries may demand proof of immunity before entry.

“Demonstrating your COVID-19 vaccination status allows you to show others that you’ve had a full course of the COVID-19 vaccine when travelling abroad to some countries or territories. A full course is currently 2 doses of any approved vaccine,” the government website said.

“From 17 May, you may be able to show your COVID-19 vaccination status as proof of your status when travelling abroad.

“There are not many countries that currently accept proof of vaccination. So for the time being most people will still need to follow other rules when travelling abroad – like getting a negative pre-departure test,” the statement continued.

Downing Street had said on Monday, according to The Times, that the app will be ready in time for when the United Kingdom’s ban on foreign travel is lifted next week.

Those who do not have a smartphone can request a paper copy of the vaccine certificate from the NHS. The app is currently unable to show results for coronavirus tests, but developers hope to add that functionality later.

Denmark was said to be the first Western country to pledge to introduce vaccine passports for foreign travel in February, with the European Union also working on their own “green pass” for opening up travel across the bloc. EU lawmakers, however, agreed to limit the scope of the document, in that it should not be viewed as a travel document, and consideration must be given to the unvaccinated so as to avoid discrimination.

There were reports since February that the British government was working on some form of vaccine certification for international travel, with holiday destination countries like Greece considering proof of vaccination before entry. However, the prospects of a domestic immunity certificate have had some lawmakers concerned, including the Liberal Democrats and the lockdown sceptics of the Conservative Party.

Vaccine Minister Nadhim Zahawi was the first to suggest in late November that “many” businesses may want to engage with immunity passports the way they did with the NHS Test and Trace system, which was used for tracking outbreaks, admitting in remarks that were rapidly repudiated by senior minister Michael Gove that the government was “looking at the technology”.

Then in early January, Mr Zahawi pledged that “we have no plans to introduce vaccine passports” — but Mr Gove was announced the following month to be heading up a government review on vaccine passports for domestic use.

While Prime Minister Johnson had earlier expressed his opposition to vaccine or immunity documentation, he has said in recent months that “the basic concept of vaccine certification should not be totally alien to us”, with a government document claiming that “COVID-status certification is likely to become a feature of our lives until the threat from the pandemic recedes”.

Signals from the government and its sources have vacillated on whether such passports would be needed for going to the pub, for example. As a result, dozens of businesses in the hospitality industry are forewarning the government that should the rules come into effect, pub landlords and restaurant owners would not be forcing their customers to prove they were vaccinated.

Reportedly, so great is the concern of government over a rebellion in the House of Commons, the prime minister is preparing to offer a sunset clause on the measures, should the review, due to be completed in June, recommend domestic vaccine passports.

Chairman of the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers Sir Graham Brady had said on the issue of domestic vaccine passports last month that they would represent the State reaching “too far into our lives”.

“No government in future should have the power to tell you whether you can see your children or grandchildren, nor should it be able to force you to publish your medical records as a condition for living a normal life,” Sir Graham had said.

On Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the next phase in easing restrictions in England, including that Britons may hug their loved ones and the return of indoor hospitality service.

On the issue of “papers for pints”, or for accessing businesses or public spaces in the United Kingdom, the prime minister gave the ambiguous statement on Monday: “We’ll be saying more later this month about exactly what the world will look like and what role there could be — if any — for certification and social distancing.”

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