New Covid vaccine passport app for international travel may launch this month - what we know so far

Thursday, 4th March 2021, 2:19 pm
Updated Thursday, 4th March 2021, 2:19 pm
The app will store evidence of a negative Covid-19 test and vaccination (Photo: Shutterstock)

A new Covid-19 vaccine app is being trialled this month on international flight routes, raising hopes for the return of foreign travel.

The app has been created by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and is to be used on routes between London and Singapore in the next fortnight, with plans to launch more widely soon after.

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Hopes for summer holidays

The app will store evidence of a negative Covid-19 test as well as proof of a coronavirus vaccination, giving hope that summer holidays could be possible this year.

Nick Careen, the industry trade body's senior vice president for airport passenger cargo and security, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that "quite a few" governments have already shown an interest in the app.

Mr Careen said that UK passengers would likely be able to use paper records as proof of vaccination, or may need to upload digital evidence to the app.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4, he said: “The chances are it will be a combination of the two.

“Speaking specifically for the UK, there have been discussions and there have been some announcements in terms of digitising, and there is a digital record through the NHS of your vaccination regardless of how it is being logged, so the ability to be able to communicate that would not be overly burdensome.

“But, ultimately, yes, we would expect to have to have the ability to be able to upload existing documents, but also those that are digital as well.”

When asked about data protection, Mr Careen said that information stored on the app would not be kept on a central database and that Covid-19 test and vaccine records would only “exist on your phone”.

Vinoop Goel, IATA’s regional director of airports, has previously said that it is working with a number of airlines worldwide and the plan is to make the app live in March, with a fully functional working system expected to be ready over the next few weeks.

Covid passports still under review

Cabinet Minister Michael Gove has been tasked with leading a review into the potential use of Covid vaccine passports as part of the road map to easing lockdown.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed that a study into the use of vaccine and testing certificates will be one of four reviews conducted as part of easing the current restrictions, and said that the use of vaccine passports for international travel was more than likely.

Some other countries around the world have already started working towards introducing these kinds of measures, with the European Commission announcing on Monday (1 March) that it will be submitting a proposal for digital Covid vaccinations to be implemented across the EU.

The Digital Green Pass will provide proof that a person has received a coronavirus jab, alongside test results for those who have not received a vaccine.

In Estonia, the UN’s WHO health agency is working to implement an e-vaccination certificate, also known as a “smart yellow card”, while Denmark is also developing a digital vaccine passport.

Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said that, in the same way that Yellow Fever certificates exist for travel to some countries, “there may well be scope for vaccination giving people the ability to do certain things that, without vaccination, they might not be able to do”.

Mr Johnson added that there are “deep and complex issues” that need to be explored in regard to introducing vaccine passports, and the subject is still under review.