Sunseekers on track to fly off for foreign holidays using NHS app as Covid passport
Matt Hancock in talks with Apple and Google to improve NHS app
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The digital proof of travellers’ jab and test status will open up trips to virus-safe countries, Grant Shapps revealed. Spain is among popular destinations ready to welcome back holidaymakers this summer. Last night it said Britons will only be welcome if Spaniards can come here on the same terms – the virus passport. And Mr Shapps said UK infection data continued to “look good” for lifting the international travel ban on May 17 – the earliest date in the for easing restrictions. Details of the traffic light system ranking countries’ Covid safety will be released around May 10.
Mr Shapps said: “So far the data does continue to look good from a UK perspective, notwithstanding those concerns about where people might be travelling to – and making sure we’re protected from the disease being reimported.”
He is holding talks with transport ministers from the US, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan next week to secure an agreement on international standards for coronavirus passports.
Mr Shapps added: “We are working on an NHS application; actually 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 you’ve had testing.
“I’m working internationally…to make sure that system can be internationally recognised, as that’s the way forward.”
But the transport chief said that while the UK is managing to bring down Covid rates, the picture is different elsewhere.
He said: “The rest of the world currently has the highest seven-day average ever since this pandemic started.
“So we are not out of the woods yet internationally, and this is of course about international travel. We do have to do that in a cautious manner and make sure it’s safe to do.”
He said it was too early to say if holidaymakers will be able to soak up some Spanish sun without having to quarantine on their return to Britain.
Mr Shapps added: “Spain specifically, I’m afraid I just don’t have the answer…because [Government scientific advisers] the Joint Biosecurity Centre will need to come up with their assessment and we can’t do that until a bit nearer the time. So we will need to wait and see.”
The travel traffic light system will class countries as green, amber or red depending on their Covid levels, their vaccination rates and whether they have worrying virus variants.
Travellers from the safest places will only have to take a test before departure and two days after arriving – and will not face any other restrictions unless they test positive. Only a few areas are expected to be judged safe enough for the first wave of travel.
European holiday hotspots are desperate to reopen their borders to British travellers in time for the summer season.
Brussels has already set out plans for Digital Green Certificates showing a passenger’s Covid status that could be used this summer.
Spain’s tourism minister, Fernando Valdes Verelst has said the country will use coronavirus passports to let in holidaymakers once again.
He added: “Spain is going to be ready in June to use this digital certificate. “We are doing a pilot programme in May, in all our 46 airports.
“We are going to give all these travellers that certainty. Spain is going to be ready in June to tell all travellers worldwide that you can visit us.”
Last night his ministry added that the UK must “accept the same terms for Spanish travellers who go to the UK”.
Although the signs are positive that overseas holidays will be allowed to restart, there is still frustration within the travel industry. Jet2 is worried about the scant details of the plans.
A spokesman said yesterday: “Unsurprisingly, given the short-term uncertainty, customers are booking significantly closer to departure for summer ’21.” Government sources said it was still too early to say how countries will be assessed in the traffic light system.
But experts believe Israel, Morocco, the Maldives and parts of the Caribbean will initially be classed as green.
Paul Charles, of London travel consultancy The PC Agency, expects all of Europe will be “either amber or green”, with the US becoming green before July 4.
A travel watchlist to run alongside the traffic light system will show which destinations are showing signs of a shift in cases. It comes after Britons fled home to beat domestic restrictions last year.
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