UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has confirmed that the UK is to use the NHS app, currently used for booking appointments, as a vaccine passport for international travel.

Shapps confirmed the app will be used to allow Britons to demonstrate whether they have had a Covid jab, or tested negative for the virus before travelling abroad.

The announcement comes as the UK approaches one of the next milestones on the government’s roadmap to lockdown lifting – the resumption of non-essential international travel. Under current restrictions, international travel for non-exempt purposes – which includes holidays – will not be allowed any earlier than May 17.

Quarantine-free travel for green list countries

The government has previously set out plans for a “traffic light” system which will be used in the coming months to categorise different destinations. Those travelling to green list countries will be able to travel without having to quarantine on their return, but will still need to undergo Covid testing before their departure and return to the UK. Shapps told Sky News that he would reveal the government’s green list destinations “in the next couple of weeks.”

The app used to help lift restrictions on internation travel will not be the NHS Covid app which is currently used to “check in” to venues such as pubs and restaurants for contact-tracing purposes. Shapps explained: “It will be the NHS app that is used for people when they book appointments with the NHS and so on, to be able to show you’ve had a vaccine or that you’ve had testing.”

Shapps said he would be meeting with other transport secretaries from G7 countries next week to discuss the resumption of international travel. He added: “I’m working internationally with partners across the world to make sure that system can be internationally recognised.”

Britons must “remain cautious” about virus

Shapps said data from the government’s Joint Biosecurity Centre would be used to determine the Covid status of different countries and which would be deemed “green”, “amber” or “red” under the traffic light system. In a previous announcement, the government said it would be monitor vaccination rates, infection levels, any concerns about coronavirus variants, and the accuracy of a country’s COVID reporting when deciding on categorisation of destinations.

He also warned Britons of the need to remain “very cautious” about the virus. He said: “Beyond our shores we are seeing the highest levels of coronavirus that we have seen so far in the entire pandemic, right now.”

“So we do need to make sure we do this very, very carefully – we don’t want to throw away the lockdown, we don’t want to throw away our remarkable rollout in this country of the vaccination.”

Shapps added that the public were becoming more accepting of Covid testing. “I think people are getting very used to testing now,” he said, “Not least because we provide testing up to twice a week for everyone in the country right now. So I don’t think a test itself is a big deal.”

A number of European countries, including Spain, Portugal and Malta have indicated that they are hoping to welcome tourists this summer.

Image: London Heathrow Airport

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