The UK government has admitted that the NHS app which was also set to be used as a Covid passport will not be ready in time for when international travel resumes.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced last week that the NHS app, currently used to book medical appointments and order repeat prescriptions, would be updated to include a person’s Covid-19 status.

Officials in the Department for Health and Social Care, along with the digital arm of the health service NHSX, are currently developing the app, which is unlikely to be ready until the summer. The government is now working on alternative plans in time for the planned unlocking of non-essential international travel on May 17. Passengers will need to give evidence of vaccination, a recent test result or recovery from the virus before they can travel.

Vaccinated British tourists may also have to give evidence of a negative Covid test result to be admitted into countries within the Government’s “green list.” The UK government’s position is different from the European Commission, which is currently discussing plans to ease restrictions on non-essential travel and has recommended that those who can prove full vaccinations with approved jabs be exempt from testing and quarantine measures.

Government will confirm measures before May 17

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “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.”

“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 Government has discussed using other Covid passports to help reopen travel, including use of an app developed by the International Air Transport Association (IATA). As paper-based vaccination certificates would be easier to forge, any app will need access to NHS databases storing vaccination data.

At least 20 countries are reported to have said they will allow holidaymakers in time for the summer season who can prove their vaccination status through a vaccine passport. The government is set to announce its list of “green list” countries at the end of this week.

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