Government is considering ‘transition options’ ahead of planned closure of programme for vaccination certification
The NHS Covid Pass currently required by many UK citizens wishing to travel abroad is to be phased out within the next nine months, according to the government minister responsible for the programme.
Maggie Throup, the minister for vaccines and public health, revealed that the scheme “is due to close by 31 March 2023”.
She added that “transition options for the service are currently being assessed” by the Department of Health and Social Care.
“The programme provides delivery, service and policy to ensure the UK meets international travel requirements including for travel to the European Union, which plans to operate the EU Digital Covid Certificate until June 2023,” Throup added, in response to a parliamentary question from fellow Conservative MP Andrew Rosindell.
The UK vaccine certification – which is delivered primarily via the NHS App – was launched 14 months ago, and has provided citizens with a means of evidencing their immunisation status for use both in domestic settings and for international travel.
In the months following the gradual reopening of society last summer, some large events and hospitality venues set as a condition of entry the provision of a domestic Covid Pass – which, in addition to vaccination, was also issued on the basis of immunity or a recent negative test.
The programme stopped issuing passes for domestic use earlier this year.
Vaccinated citizens can still obtain the passes designed for use at overseas border checkpoints or other venues; the NHS-issued documents can be read by scanners across the EU and in a number of other countries and regions that participate in a reciprocal certification arrangement.
Many countries across the globe still require arrivals to provide vaccine documentation; others accept evidence of either vaccination or a negative test, while some no longer have any such restrictions on entry.
Throup’s comments suggest that the government expects borders around the world to remove any remaining Covid-related measures over the coming months.
The NHS Covid Pass is available a digitally to everyone aged 12 and upward, while younger children can obtain a hard copy document.
The passes, which last for 30 days, can be accessed – for those aged 13 or older – via the NHS app, or downloaded as a digital document that can displayed on a device or printed out.
Earlier this year, the DHSC signed Danish IT firm Netcompany to an initial one-year £6.5m contract to support the delivery of the NHS Covid Pass programme until 31 March 2023. The deal provided for two further one-year extensions, although it now seems these may not be necessary.
The incorporation of the vaccine certificates into the NHS App has prompted a massive uptick in users of the program.
As of March 2020, the app had been available for well over a year, but had only been downloaded to 250,000 times.
This had risen to 2.25 million by the time the NHS Covid Pass was launched in May 2021 – after which uptake exploded. The app now has 28 million users across England.