England’s digital vaccine passport on the NHS app will be ready in time for 17 May

May 11, 2021

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Editor’s note: This story has been updated with new information.


England’s digital vaccine passport will reportedly be ready for international travellers to use as of 17 May’s return of travel. And, it will be available on an app you may already have installed on your phone.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced late last month that England will use the NHS app as the host for digital vaccine passports. Now, however, the government is assuring fully vaccinated travellers that the technology will be ready in time for 17 May.

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“Certification, being able to show that you’ve had a jab, is going to be necessary for people to be able to travel,” Health Secretary Matt Hancock told The Independent. “So, we want to make sure people can get access to that proof, not least to show governments of other countries that you’ve had the jab if they require that in order to arrive.”

It’s worth noting that it won’t be the NHS COVID-19 track and trace app, which you use to check in to restaurants and pubs, but instead, it will be available on the standard NHS app that is used to book appointments.

Once the technology within the app is ready to launch — ideally in time for Monday — travellers will be able to show their proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 test result within the app.

“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 told Sky News. “I’m working internationally with partners across the world to make sure that system can be internationally recognised.”

The last point will be the most important for travellers. In order for the NHS app to be used as a vaccine passport that can show a negative test result for travellers, other countries have to be willing to accept it as sufficient proof. The Department for Health and Social Care has said that the NHS app certification will be in line with the guidance from the World Health Organisation (WHO).

“I’m chairing a meeting of the G7 secretaries of state for transport, my equivalents, from America and Canada and all the other G7 countries next week on exactly that subject,” Shapps said last month.

It’s worth noting that the plan to use the NHS app as a digital vaccine passport only applies to travellers in England. Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales will likely make their own decisions about what systems to use for digital vaccine proof, though they could follow suit in using the NHS app.

Greece said previously that it will accept the paper NHS slip as proof of vaccination, providing a fallback for travellers if the NHS app functionality isn’t ready in time. Brits who are fully vaccinated can request a paper letter to prove their vaccination status by calling 119 from Monday — not their GP.

As of 17 May, Britons will be allowed to go on holiday to international destinations once again. Last week, Shapps unveiled the long-awaited green list of low-risk countries where travellers will not have to quarantine on return to England.

Related: All 12 countries and territories that are on the UK’s green list

At this time, there are no alternative arrangements in place for fully vaccinated travellers arriving in England. Vaccinated passengers will still be required to follow the government’s rules for green, amber and red destinations — including all tests and quarantine.

Featured photo by d3sign/Getty Images.

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