UK waits on admission to EU Digital Covid Certificate scheme

European official claims NHS pass could ‘soon’ be recognised Europe-wide

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The NHS Covid Pass could “soon” be recognised under the EU’s digital vaccine certificate programme.

The UK government applied to join the scheme earlier this summer. According to vaccines minister Maggie Throup, the application was made “following technical discussions with the European Union”.

“We have now applied to join the EU’s Digital Covid Certificate scheme,” she added, in response to a written parliamentary question from Labour MP Marsha De Cordova. “This will enable digital verification of Covid-19 certification. In the meantime, passengers can continue to demonstrate their status via physical checks.”

Under the European scheme, the member states of the union have adopted a common system for the issuance of digital and hard-copy certifications of vaccination. Citizens can also obtain certificates via a negative coronavirus test or evidence of having recovered from the disease.

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In addition to the 27 countries of the EU, a further 16 nations and territories have joined the programme. This includes a range of other European states, as well as Panama and Morocco.

In each case, the vaccine or test-status certificates issued by the countries in question have been tested and ratified as equivalent to the EU’s own – and vice versa.

A spokesperson for the European Commission indicated that England, and its NHS Covid Pass platform, could shortly join this list. 

“The commission received the UK’s application on 28 July,” they told the Guardian this week. “Significant progress was made on the technical front with the aim of going live soon.”

If and when the UK joins the programme, it will mean holders of an NHS Covid Pass who have been fully vaccinated – meaning two weeks have elapsed since the last does – can travel to 43 countries without any testing or quarantine requirements. 

Those whose pass relates to natural immunity will be exempt from quarantine or mandatory tests for 180 days after they last recorded a positive PCR test, while passes granted for a negative PCR or lateral flow test will exempt the holder from quarantine for 72 or 48 hours respectively.

Scotland is not part of the NHS Covid Pass scheme, and recently launched its own vaccine status app. Welsh citizens can obtain an NHS Covid Pass but, unlike those in England, cannot use the NHS app to do so.


Sam Trendall

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