On Friday, the government released its eagerly-anticipated list of destinations people in England can visit from May 17 without self-isolating on their return.
The announcement was met with disappointment from the travel industry and sun worshippers, with Portugal, Gibraltar and Israel the only popular summer short-haul destinations on the “green list” for travel. Some of the destinations named – notably Australia, New Zealand and Singapore – aren’t letting tourists in.
But for those who are desperate to get away to South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, Saint Helena, Ascension Island or Tristan da Cunha – “I’m sure the Falklands is lovely,” transport secretary Grant Shapps said – a form of Covid-free certification is likely to be needed.
On Friday, the Department for Transport also announced that from May 17, people who have had both doses of a coronavirus vaccine will be able to demonstrate their status on the NHS app.
The app is connected to GP services and linked to personal health data. It can be used for repeat prescriptions, to message doctors and book appointments. It is separate from the NHS Covid-19 app, which is used for contact-tracing.
Those without access to the app can, from May 17, request a letter from the NHS that proves their vaccination status by calling 119.
The government says it is working with the devolved administrations to ensure this facility is available to everyone across the UK.
Will other countries accept it?
Countries around the world are looking at a host of options that will serve as proof of Covid-19 vaccinations to allow travel, though airports, border agencies and airlines are worried there will be no clear global standard that will be accepted at all borders.
Vaccine passports could range from a digital certificate with a scannable QR code in the European Union to a humble piece of paper in some other countries.
Besides concerns over issuance, forgery and the repeated failure of government-backed technology projects, it is still unclear how such documents would be received by notoriously zealous border guards across the world.
What does the UK government say?
The DfTs’s announcement makes clear certification will be useful to enter some countries on the “green list”.
For example, foreign nationals are not be permitted to enter Israel – but it has announced that borders will re-open from May 23 to tourists with vaccine certificates.
Will the NHS app be ready?
Earlier this week, Downing Street confirmed the app may not be ready for when curbs on international travel are lifted.
Number 10 said government was working on the tech – which can prove whether someone has “vaccine passport” status – “at pace”, but admitted it may not be ready in time for May 17.
What are other countries doing?
Airlines and airports have said any vaccine passport will need to be digital, to avoid delays during customs clearance or the boarding of flights caused by checks of paperwork.
The global airline industry body IATA is launching a digital travel pass for Covid-19 test results and vaccine certificates, while the European Union is launching a bloc-wide system.