Vaccination passport to unlock Europe for UK tourists

Updated: Mar 3

Ursula von der Leyen, the commission president, announced the vaccination passport scheme.

European leaders in Brussels have pledged that a vaccination passport scheme will be open to British travellers in time to save the summer holidays.

A proposal for a “digital green pass” will be put forward by the European Commission on March 17 to “kick start” tourism by the end of June. Ursula von der Leyen, the commission president, announced the plan after European Union leaders agreed last week that a Covid-19 certificate or “passport” would need to be in place by the summer.

“We’ll present a legislative proposal for a ‘digital green pass’,” she said yesterday. “The pass should facilitate Europeans’ lives. The aim is to gradually enable them to move safely in the EU or abroad — for work or tourism.”

Along with vaccinations, the “pass” or certificate will include information on an individual’s most recent Covid test results and “statements of recovery”, such as test data showing immunity owing to the presence of antibodies.

The scheme raises the prospect that unvaccinated adults and children could still travel abroad if they have had a recent negative Covid test.

Ministers are increasingly aware that Britons will need evidence of vaccination or a negative test to travel. Matt Hancock, the health secretary, told the Downing Street press conference yesterday that Britain was working with international partners on vaccination certification.

He said: “As I understand it, the EU proposal is that certification includes both whether you’ve had the vaccine and also whether you’ve recently had a test for those who can’t get vaccinated yet, which is obviously particularly important.”

In other developments:

• Britain recorded 104 deaths within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test, the lowest daily figure since October 26, with the seven-day total down by 35 per cent. A further 5,455 cases were reported, a fall of 29 per cent from the previous week.

• Boris Johnson insisted that Britain had “one of the toughest border regimes anywhere in the world” despite the detection of six cases of the Brazilian coronavirus strain.

• New data revealed that a single jab of either the Oxford or Pfizer vaccine cuts the risk of hospitalisation by 80 per cent.

• An infectious diseases expert at Public Health England said Britons should wear masks with two or three layers to prevent spreading Covid-19.

Airlines and holiday companies welcomed the EU’s announcement. Andrew Flintham, managing director of Tui, Britain’s biggest tour operator, said: “We’re incredibly supportive of digital travel apps, or vaccine certificates for international travel this summer as they will restore our freedom to travel.”

He said the company was in “close co-ordination” with Greece, Spain and Cyprus about facilitating holidays. International travel will resume on May 17 at the earliest and a new iteration of the government’s Global Travel Taskforce will report to ministers on April 12 with proposals for the sector’s restart.

The EU scheme, which will be discussed at a summit on March 24, will not automatically enable Britons to travel to Mediterranean resorts because its first aim is to open up free movement within Europe. For international travel, European officials are in contact with the World Health Organisation to ensure that the pass will work as part of global standards to allow travel from non-EU countries such as Britain. Downing Street said that the

Department for Transport would talk to EU officials about the pass and Johnson planned to use Britain’s G7 presidency to agree an international approach.

Huw Merriman, the Conservative MP and chairman of the transport select committee, told Times Radio that 20 to 30 digital apps were in development.

He said it was vital that they not only allow vaccination status to be proved, but also negative test results for those who are unvaccinated.

He said: “The idea is that you go to the airport, present your phone and [with] one click you’re done. I hope that people will embrace it. Yes, there will be exceptions.

There will be people unable to have the vaccination for certain reasons and we need to find a solution for them as well.”

He was optimistic that travel would be possible in the coming months. “I hope that we don’t start to find that talk of mutant strains leads us to panic and then not develop those policies that will allow us to unlock,” he said. “The vaccination programme has been put together with mutant strains in mind.”


What is a vaccine passport?

It is physical or digital proof that you have been vaccinated or tested (Henry Zeffman writes).

What is the EU planning?

It hopes to have a “digital green pass” that would display people’s vaccination and test data in force by the end of June. This could help restart travel within the bloc.

Will the UK be part of it?

Not initially but countries such as Greece are desperate for British tourists to visit because their economies need them.

What are the UK’s plans for vaccine passports?

The UK is eager to be part of the international move towards vaccine passports to allow travel. This requires common standards across countries, which the World Health Organisation is working on. Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, has already discussed this with his counterparts in the US, Singapore and Spain. One option is to integrate a British vaccine passport into the existing NHS app.

Source: The Times

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