NHS app set to feature vaccine passport

Transport secretary reveals that technology will incorporate certifications

The NHS app will soon include a feature allowing users to demonstrate that they have been vaccinated or recently tested for coronavirus.

The system will be incorporated into the core NHS app – which can be used to book GP appointments, order prescriptions and access medical records – rather than the NHS Covid-19 app used for contact tracing.

The impending updates were confirmed this morning by transport secretary Grant Shapps. The hope is that the system could smooth the path to international travel – the potential resumption of which is just a few weeks away.

Government rules will, theoretically, allow citizens to go on foreign holidays from as early as 17 May and countries including Greece, Portugal and Spain have indicated a desire to welcome UK holidaymakers.

To enable cross-continental travel, the EU is developing a union-wide digital vaccine certificate, and European officials are also reportedly working with counterparts in the US to ensure appropriate cross-border recognition.

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Shapps, who said the NHS app will offer users certification that “you’ve had a vaccine or that you’ve had testing”, told Sky News that the government will also seek to make sure the UK’s platform can be used by citizens when overseas.

“I’m working internationally with partners across the world to make sure that system can be internationally recognised,” he added.

Earlier this week the European commission indicated that it had not had any contact with the UK on the issue of vaccine passports, and it is now understood that talks are taking place with individual countries, rather than with the EU as a whole.

Before the next easing of restrictions, the government will publish a global traffic-light ranking of countries and territories, in which citizens can – in theory – travel freely to green-rated countries, subject to testing before departure and after return. 

Travellers returning from amber destinations will be asked to quarantine at home for 10 days, while those visiting red-listed countries will need to stay in a government-managed hotel.

Before today’s announcement, many had assumed that vaccine certification would be added to the Covid-19 contact-tracing app, rather than to the core NHS app. 

Last month the UK boss of Zühlke – the company that did much of the development work for the Covid app – told PublicTechnology that he expected his firm might be asked to implement a functionality update allowing users to demonstrate their vaccine status.

The Department of Health and Social Care has been contacted for comment.


Sam Trendall

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