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NHS app may not be ready to act as ‘vaccine passport’ when travel resumes

The Independent logo The Independent 04/05/2021 Andrew Woodcock

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The NHS app may not be ready for use as a “vaccine passport” when international travel resumes on 17 May, Downing Street has confirmed.

A “green list” of countries regarded as safe for travel from that date is expected to be released on Friday this week.

Read the latest news and updates on India's Covid emergency.

As few as 10 states are expected to be on the list drawn up by the government’s Global Travel Task Force, with others added in June if their coronavirus rates drop.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has previously said the app - currently used to book medical appointments and order repeat prescriptions - will display evidence that someone has been vaccinated or recently tested.

Travellers walk through Terminal 2 at Heathrow Airport, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in London, Britain February 14, 2021. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls © Thomson Reuters Travellers walk through Terminal 2 at Heathrow Airport, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in London, Britain February 14, 2021. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

But the Prime Minister’s official spokesman indicated that officials were working on alternative plans when international travel resumes.”

(Mr Shapps) set out the approach we are looking to take,” the spokesman said.

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More on coronavirus:

Latest news and updates on India's Covid emergency

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“Obviously we will be able to confirm ahead of the 17th at the earliest what measures are used for those initial countries that are available for travel, be it the app or another approach.”

The spokesman added: “There are other routes to achieving the same end goal. We are working on the app at the moment at pace, to have it ready, and we will be able to confirm ahead of the 17th at the earliest what approaches we will be using.”

The European Commission has boosted hopes of holidays on the continent this summer.

In a statement, the Commission said it was ready to ease restrictions on non-essential travel “not only for all persons coming from countries with a good epidemiological situation, but also all people who have received the last recommended dose of an EU-authorised vaccine”.

Epidemiologist Prof Neil Ferguson told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think if for instance, by the summer, infection levels in France and Italy are the same sort of level as they are here, then there’s no risk associated with travelling overseas.

“The risk comes from going from a place like the UK with very low infection levels and going to a place with much higher infection levels and therefore having the risk of bringing infection back.

“If the two places are at comparable levels, and that’s what the EU is saying, then there is no particular risks associated with travel.”

Meanwhile, Portugal’s secretary of state for tourism, Rita Marques, said the country is “taking the lead” at the European Council in negotiations aimed at opening up the EU to UK holidaymakers.

Italian tourists visit the leaning tower of Pisa as it re-opens to the public, following the ease of restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Pisa, Italy, May 1, 2021. REUTERS/Jennifer Lorenzini © Thomson Reuters Italian tourists visit the leaning tower of Pisa as it re-opens to the public, following the ease of restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Pisa, Italy, May 1, 2021. REUTERS/Jennifer Lorenzini

She told BBC Breakfast: “We are really pushing hard to open up to third countries like the UK.”

But International Trade Secretary Liz Truss urged people to wait for an announcement from the UK’s Travel Task Force.

She told Sky News: “What we don’t want to be doing is reimporting this virus after we’ve done such an excellent job in getting the levels down in the UK… We need to be cautious and we need to make sure that we’re not simply importing the virus after we’ve successfully dealt with it in Britain.”

Stay alert to stop coronavirus spreading - here is the latest government guidance. If you think you have the virus, don't go to the GP or hospital, stay indoors and get advice online. Only call NHS 111 if you cannot cope with your symptoms at home; your condition gets worse; or your symptoms do not get better after seven days. In parts of Wales where 111 isn't available, call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47. In Scotland anyone with symptoms is advised to self-isolate for seven days. In Northern Ireland, call your GP.


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