Swipe my phone: UK to use health service app as vaccine passport

iStock (illustration)

Britain plans to use a National Health Service phone app as its COVID-19 'vaccine passport' certificate that will allow its population to travel internationally this summer.

That's according to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, who confirmed that an "NHS app" will work as a "vaccine certificate".

"I can confirm... it will be an NHS app that is used for people when they book appointments with the NHS and so on to be able to show that you've had a vaccine or that you've had testing," he told Sky News.

"And I'm working internationally with partners across the world, to make sure that that system can be internationally recognised."

This comes as 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.

So-called vaccine passports could range from a digital certificate with a scannable QR code in the European Union, to a National Health Service (NHS) phone app in the United Kingdom, or a humble piece of paper in some other countries.

Britain has earmarked May 17 as being the earliest date when international travel would be allowed for non-essential reasons following a winter lockdown.

"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 reimported," Shapps said.

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.

However, it is not clear how countries will recognise different systems: 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.

Shapps said he would reveal which travel categories countries would be placed in early next month.

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