Vaccine passports WON'T be ready by May 17

Vaccine passports WON'T be ready by May 17

04/29/2021

Vaccine passports WON’T be ready by May 17: Updates to NHS app will not be completed until AFTER foreign trips restart – as Spain warns it will only allow Brit tourists back if UK reciprocates

  • Grant Shapps says Government is working on using existing NHS app to be used as a vaccine passport
  • Transport Secretary also says it will show negative tests results and jabs – but does not go into finer details
  • Thousands rushed to download NHS app and discovered their jabs already uploaded to their medical records 
  • Plan is for Covid passport deal with US, France, Italy and Germany by end of June, with Spain opening earlier
  • Portugal says it won’t demand vaccination in return for entry while Greece says NHS vaccination card will do

Covid passports are now not expected to be ready for the start of foreign holidays on May 17 and could be delayed until ‘later in the summer’, it was claimed today.   

Grant Shapps revealed yesterday that the NHS’ app for appointments and prescriptions will double as a covid passport for tourists, providing evidence of their covid vaccinations and test results. 

But Mr Shapps also gave a hint that its rollout could coincide with June’s G7 summit in Cornwall in early June, where he hopes to seal bilateral travel corridors with Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the US. 

Spain, which plans to open up at the end of May to tourists with digital proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test result, is said to have that the UK must reciprocate the same deal to its own tourists after Mr Shapps gave a muted response and told people to ‘wait and see’ before booking. 

It came as consumer experts warned that the system for testing returning holidaymakers could collapse when mass international travel resumes due to a lack of capacity, while there are concerns that a delay in bringing in vaccine passports could cause more chaos at Heathrow, where people have had to wait at border control for seven hours due to problems with paperwork.

Portugal said yesterday that it hoped that all British tourists, regardless of whether they’ve had a jab, could visit from mid-May with a negative test result while Greece says it will accept a paper card from the NHS vaccination scheme as proof despite fears they are easily forged.

Britain’s covid passport is being developed by NHSX, the tech arm of the health service, with sources briefing The Times that despite ministers trying to rush it through for May 17, it will not be ready despite the Transport Secretary saying  the chances of a foreign holiday ‘look good’ in just under three weeks.

The newspaper has also reported that the government could still end up opting for ‘another app solution’ because of concerns people may risk sharing larger parts of their private medical history by using the current one long term.

More details about Britain’s covid passport emerged as: 

  • The consumer group Which? said the testing regime was already failing to deal with the relatively small number of people arriving in the UK from overseas, and it could be overwhelmed when large numbers of Britons come back from hotspots; 
  • England’s deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van Tam says it would be ‘incredibly safe’ for two fully Covid vaccinated people to meet up, and reveals that UK’s infection rate has probably hit lowest possible level;
  • UK has bought 60million more doses of Pfizer’s Covid vaccine to supply autumn booster jabs to cut the risk of mutated variants, Matt Hancock reveals;
  • Mass coronavirus testing could lead to spikes in transmission because Britons with symptoms may bypass more accurate lab tests, experts fear;

The NHS’ app for appoimtments, prescriptions and health advice will be adapted to house a vaccine passport, but plans by ministers to have it ready for May 17 appear to be crumbling

Spain: Sunbathers enjoy a day at Sant Sebastia beach, in Barcelona last summer. Spain wants to open up in June but will demand a reciprocal deal with the UK, according to Telegraph sources

Tens of thousands have rushed to download the app and many were shocked to discover details of their vaccinations – including how many they’ve had and the type of vaccine administered – were already waiting for them.  

System for testing returning holidaymakers is ‘in danger of collapse when mass travel returns’ 

The system for testing returning holidaymakers could collapse when mass international travel resumes, consumer experts warn.

Ministers are talking optimistically about families being able to enjoy summer breaks overseas, but these will still be covered by a requirement for Covid tests.

Even travellers returning to the UK from safe countries on an official ‘green list’ will need to take tests on their return.

The consumer group Which? said the testing regime was already failing to deal with the relatively small number of people arriving in the UK from overseas, and it could be overwhelmed when large numbers of Britons come back from hotspots.

Social media and review sites have been flooded with complaints about test result delays, with a Facebook group for those suffering problems with the system amassing 1,500 members. Which? has heard from travellers who did not receive their test results for more than ten days.

 

But the Department of Health has denied claims on social media it has secretly rolled out covid passports, insisting that all vaccines are automatically added to the app when it connects to the user’s medical records.

Sources said the app’s covid passport update is still in development but is being rushed through before May 17, when foreign holidays become legal. Ministers hope an updated version of the app will allow people to display their vaccine and test status on their phones, with a personal scannable QR code for use at passport control.

Mr Shapps gave a hint that it could its rollout could coincide with June’s G7 summit in Cornwall in early June, where he hopes to seal bilateral travel corridors with Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the US. 

Mr Shapps refused to be drawn on the finer details of how it would work – leaving huge unanswered questions about how people would get record of a negative non-NHS test uploaded, and what happens to un-vaccinated people when they return from their holidays.

He told Sky News: ‘In terms of vaccine certification, I can confirm 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 with partners across the world to make sure that system can be internationally recognised, as that’s the way forward. Actually, I’m chairing a meeting of the G7 secretaries of state for transport, my equivalents from America and Canada and all the G7 countries, next week on exactly this subject’.  

Mr Shapps’ announcement led to a rush of people trying to download the app, including former footballer Stan Collymore, who shared details of his Oxford/AstraZeneca jab with his 895,000 followers. It led to a flurry of replies from others who had discovered the same thing. 

Manuel Lobo Antunes, Portugal’s ambassador to the UK, said UK holidaymakers could be able to visit the country next month. He told Sky News the country is ‘hopeful’ that ‘from the middle of May, regular mobility between the UK and Portugal and vice versa can be established’.

Asked if Britons who have not been vaccinated can travel to Portugal, he added: ‘Yes, that’s the idea, that’s what we wanted, to as much as possible go back to the regime that existed before the pandemic. It’s in that direction we are working and that is possible.’  

Stan Collymore is among those who discovered their Covid jab is already on the NHS app as the Government revealed it would be used to house vaccine passports from May. The NHS has denied this means the passports are live, insisting the jabs are automatically added to medical records

Millions could go to pubs with no social distancing under plans to let drinkers use mobile phones to prove they are free of Covid. This graphic shows how the app would have worked 

 

It was Transport Secretary Grant Shapps who revealed the NHS app is being worked on to become a health certificate for international travel – but explained it will be housed on the app used to book appointments and repeat prescriptions, not the Covid-19 one currently used to check into pubs, cafes and other venues or ‘ping’ when somebody came close to a positive case. 

Mr Shapps said the NHS app is being worked on to become a health certificate for international travel. It only has three stars on the iPhone app store

But people using smartphones such as the Apple iPhone 6, launched in 2014, claim they were unable to download it because the NHS app says their smartphone is too old. 

Domestic coronavirus statistics ‘look good’ enough to enable the resumption of foreign holidays from May 17, Mr Shapps also revealed.

Spain’s tourism minister, Fernando Valdes Verelst, has told an international summit held by the World Travel & Tourism Council in Mexico that the country will welcome back tourists – including those from the UK – in June.He said: ‘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.’ 

Overseas leisure travel could resume for people in England on May 17 under Boris Johnson’s road map for easing restrictions.

Mr Shapps told Sky News: ‘I have to say that 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 added he will set out which countries fall into the ‘green’, ‘amber’ and ‘red’ categories under the new risk-based traffic light system ‘towards the beginning of May’.

That will determine what testing and quarantine requirements travellers will face when they return from various destinations.

Revealing Spain was throwing open its beaches, tourism minister Fernando Valdes Verelst said: ‘June will be the start of the recovery of tourism in Spain. By then, we will have a digital vaccination certificate in place and we will be able to reopen our borders.’

He said Spain was pushing for the UK’s digital vaccine passport to be ‘mutually recognised’ and that he welcomed Boris Johnson’s plans to restart international travel. 

Mr Verelst said he expected Spain to be on the UK’s travel green list when international travel resumes thanks to the country’s successful vaccine rollout which has seen 22 per cent of the population receive a first dose.

This would mean Britons returning to the UK from Spain would not have to quarantine.

But Mr Shapps said the public will have to ‘wait and see’ about whether the UK will permit travel to Spain.

He told Times Radio: ‘Spain specifically, I’m afraid I just don’t have the answer to that because 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.’

Speaking at the World Travel and Tourism Council in Mexico, he added: ‘Because of the progress in our vaccine rollout with 22 per cent of our population having had their first dose already, we expect by June to be at the green light.

‘We are having close conversations with UK authorities and we are exchanging information on Spain’s digital system and the trial happening at our airports in May.’ 

Spain is the UK’s most popular overseas destination with 18.1million people visiting the country from the UK in 2019.

The port city of Malaga in Spain’s Costa del Sol was easyJet’s top beach destination for British tourists in 2019. 

The UK has earmarked May 17 as being the earliest date when international travel would be allowed for non-essential reasons following a winter lockdown, with a ‘traffic light system’ based on individual countries’ COVID risk levels.

 

Spain is the UK’s most popular overseas destination with 18.1 million people heading to the country in 2019 with Malaga (pictured) being easyJet’s most popular beach destination

ITALY: UK pushing for Brits with Covid passports to be able to holiday freely by the end of June

GREECE: The islands including Rhodes (pictured) are ready to welcome tourists in mid-May and plan random testing at airports to deal with tourists

Greece insists the paper handwritten NHS card handed out with a jab will suffice as proof until the EU catches up

Shapps said he would set out into which categories countries would be placed early next month.

Turkey and Bulgaria lift travel bans for Britons and confirm tourists WON’T need a vaccine while bookings for villas in Greece and Portugal soar 

Turkey has announced that British tourists will be welcome in the country this summer without having to show a vaccination certificate.

Visitors from the UK will not need to produce a Covid vaccine passport, but will need to show proof of a negative PCR test.  

The country also promises to provide testing for tourists before they return to the UK, with tests at hotels or airports costing around £25. Until now PCR tests for a family of four can cost as much as £500.

Tui, the world’s largest tour operator, said it had seen a surge in bookings to popular Turkish coastal resorts.  

Rental company The Luxury Travel Book told MailOnline it had seen a spike in bookings for luxury villas in Greece, Portugal and Mallorca after the Greek Tourism Minister announced the plan to welcome British tourists from mid-May. 

People are booking up for month-long trips and asking for WiFi and a desk and are taking the whole family so that they can get paid to work from home while on holiday.

The firm has also seen double the amount of requests for Greek villas compared to previous years, with demand for fully serviced villas with a chef, butler and housekeeper so tourists can stay away from busy restaurants. 

Popular islands Mykonos, Santorini, Corfu and Crete are already getting booked up, with most bookings from 2020 rolled over into this year. 

Brits are also looking for properties on smaller islands including Hydra, Paxos and Syros, which are off the beaten track and away from the crowds.

‘The data does continue to look good from a UK perspective notwithstanding those concerns about where people might be travelling to and making sure that we’re protected from the disease being re-imported,’ he said.

Talks between the UK and the EU are set to resume in days in a bid to sort out Covid passports for summer holidays in the hope they could be in place by June, officials have suggested.

Vaccinated Brits with Covid passports could holiday in the US, France, Italy and Germany by June 28, it was revealed, though Greece insists the handwritten paper NHS card handed out with a jab will suffice.

The EU is closing in on a deal with the US on Covid passports, with officials also saying they are open to a similar policy with the UK. 

In response, a UK government spokesman said Britain was also ready to open talks with the EU shortly.

The spokesman said: ‘Ensuring free and open travel with our European partners is vitally important which is why we will be engaging the European commission on reopening travel routes from the UK shortly.’  

Meanwhile, it was revealed UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps will hold talks with G7 counterparts at the Cornwall summit between June 11 and 13 with a view to securing a free travel agreement to popular destinations.

Mr Shapps will argue that they should agree international standards for vaccinated travellers heading to ‘green list’ nations who show digital proof of vaccination, a negative test or proof of immunity at passport control.

There would also be talks on bilateral ‘travel corridors’ to the US, France, Italy, Germany and other nations for passengers with a covid passport, according to the Daily Telegraph.

But Greece, which will open its borders on May 15 – two days before the UK allows holidays – is planning to go it alone, for now. 

Harry Theoharis, the Greek tourism minister, told The Times their resorts will be open to any vaccinated Britons as long as they present their NHS vaccination card, signed by a nurse of doctor after getting the jab.

He said ‘Until the UK has a digital passport, we have seen the paper cards that are provided with the two vaccine appointment dates and we are recognising them. They can be used on the ground and at the borders.’ 

Mr Theoharis said that testing would take place on arrivals, but only at random, with a review if positive cases jump upwards in the UK.

He added that once the EU sets up a digital scheme then they will sign up, but they are not willing to wait.

The European Union will throw open its borders to America this summer as it uses ‘the same jabs’ as the bloc, its top Eurocrat said yesterday.

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said the EU was in advanced talks with Washington about kick-starting holidays by using ‘vaccine passports’ to re-open transatlantic routes.

But yesterday a Commission spokesman said there were ‘no such contacts yet’ between the UK and EU over recognition of health certificates for getting Britons back on European beaches.

In an interview with the New York Times Mrs von der Leyen said: ‘The Americans, as far as I can see, use European Medicines Agency-approved vaccines. This will enable free movement and the travel to the European Union.’

She added: ‘Because one thing is clear: All 27 member states will accept, unconditionally, all those who vaccinated with vaccines that are approved by the EMA.’

Lavishing further praise on the Biden administration she added that the US was ‘on track’ and making ‘huge progress’ with its campaign to reach so-called herd immunity, or the vaccination of 70 percent of adults, by mid-June.

America is currently rolling out the Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccine jabs, which are also approved for use across the EU by the European Medicines Agency.

‘Longest summer ever’ as Britons plan to take holidays throughout autumn to beat global Covid crackdowns

Britons are preparing for the ‘longest summer ever’ as lockdown-weary holidaymakers rush to go abroad as late as November to beat global Covid crackdowns.

Autumn bookings for international trips have seen an 80 per cent surge in interest compared to 2019 – as tour operators, hotels and airlines all report increased queries about later holidays.

It comes amid warnings that summer trips could be under threat if the Foreign Office advises against travel to green list countries.

The Government is preparing to lift the ban on international travel on May 17 and is finalising plans for a ‘traffic light’ system to determine which countries will be authorised destinations.

However, experts have warned of confusion because the Foreign Office is expected to publish its own advice which could differ from the colour-coded scheme.

 

Asked whether Mrs von der Leyen was in similar talks with the UK, a Commission spokesman said: ‘So far there are no contacts to this end with the UK.’

The majority of Britons want the UK’s foreign travel ban to last until next year – and most have no intention of going on holiday anywhere this summer, an exclusive poll for MailOnline revealed last week.

As Spain said it was ‘desperate’ for Brits to return this summer, some 55 per cent back extending the Covid restrictions on non-essential trips abroad into 2022 – while just 21 per cent would oppose the idea.

Meanwhile, 43 per cent say they are not planning to go anywhere at all on holiday this summer, with only a quarter harbouring hopes of a break in another country.

The findings, in an exclusive poll for MailOnline by Redfield & Wilton Strategies, underline the level of nervousness among the population after a year of brutal lockdowns.

It comes as ministers try to rush through ‘Covid passports’ in time for the scheduled easing of the non-essential travel ban on May 17 – but will only reveal the UK’s ‘green list’ of countries on May 7 – as Spain talked up a quarantine-free travel corridor.

Greece says it is ready to welcome vaccinated British tourists immediately when its resorts open up on May 15, while Spain and Portugal say they will throw open their borders from June along with much of the EU.

Spanish Tourism Secretary, Fernando Valdés, said he wants UK holidaymakers to ‘restart holidays’ in six weeks, adding: ‘We are desperate to welcome you this summer. 

‘We’ve been having constant conversations with UK authorities’. Mr Valdes said a travel corridor between the two countries, allowing quarantine-free breaks, is firmly on the table but only with covid passports ‘easing’ the return of ‘safe’ travel.

The European Union’s ban on visitors in 2021 is not expected to apply to the UK because of its world-leading jab programme that has seen more than 33million get one dose and 10million of those receive both doses already.

A Government source told MailOnline that the Covid passport scheme would be in place next month to help people who want to travel to countries that are requiring proof of vaccination – but the source insisted that the key factor for Britons will be the rules on quarantine when returning to the UK.

‘You’ve got countries saying we will welcome you. But it depends what the precautions on return are. We will have that green, amber, red system. It is about what you face when you come back to the UK…. Can you isolate for 10 days?’, the insider said.

And they suggested that holidaymakers will not know what countries fall into what ‘traffic light’ category until around a week before May 17, probably May 7. The criteria for assessing countries are set to include whether there are variants of concern, how good their genomic scanning system is, vaccination levels, and overall infection levels.

‘That will all become clear much nearer the time,’ one source said. ‘India has just gone off… You’re going to book a holiday in Spain in June? Well, good luck, but just make sure you are insured.’

Britons are preparing for the ‘longest summer ever’ as lockdown-weary holidaymakers rush to go abroad as late as November to beat global Covid crackdowns.

Autumn bookings for international trips have seen an 80 per cent surge in interest compared to 2019 – as tour operators, hotels and airlines all report increased queries about later holidays.

It comes amid warnings that summer trips could be under threat if the Foreign Office advises against travel to green list countries.

The Government is preparing to lift the ban on international travel on May 17 and is finalising plans for a ‘traffic light’ system to determine which countries will be authorised destinations.

However, experts have warned of confusion because the Foreign Office is expected to publish its own advice which could differ from the colour-coded scheme.

This means if the FO advises against travel to a certain country – even if it is permitted by the traffic light system – holidaymakers could see their plans disrupted.

Most holiday companies will not operate services in countries the Foreign Office has advised against visiting.

Meanwhile, going to a country against government guidelines will invalidate travel insurance.

Britons keen to avoid potential holiday issues – and those concerned about a much-slower vaccine rollout in several European nations – are looking at going abroad much later in the year.

Online flight booking website Skyscanner told The Times that more sunseekers are looking at holidays in September, October and November now than they were in 2019.

Some 43 per cent of all bookings at Co-op Travel fell into the late-summer category.

It was earlier revealed that even destinations on the green or amber list – where travel is permitted – could be off-limits if the Foreign Office advises against travelling to them.

Their advice is based on factors such as the risk of individuals getting stuck by Covid restrictions or the capacity and quality of the country’s health services.

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