The Government is planning to press ahead with mandatory coronavirus vaccine passports for clubs and crowded indoor venues in the UK, meaning using the NHS Covid pass will soon become part of daily life.
Despite protests and opposition from MPs amid concerns of creating a two-tier system, the Prime Minister’s spokesperson has said that details making Covid passes, which check if you have had a vaccine or a negative test, compulsory are just around the corner.
Covid passes are part of the NHS App. If you have been double vaccinated, or have uploaded a test result, they can enable access to overseas travel or certain crowded venues.
The Government previously repeatedly stressed that there were no plans for Covid passes, but in a stunning u-turn is now expected to make it the law for certain venues to require them for entry.
Here is everything you need to know about downloading and using the NHS Covid Pass:
What is a vaccine passport?
A vaccine passport should allow travellers who have had two jabs, and therefore are likely to have strong immunity against coronavirus, to travel more easily. Some countries have made having proof of a vaccine or a recent test a prerequisite for entry.
In the UK, you can also get a domestic Covid pass by having a test, or if you have had coronavirus in the last 180 days.
The UK’s Covid vaccine pass is part of the official NHS app – not the separate NHS Covid-19 contact tracing app.
How do I download the NHS app?
The official NHS app is available to download for most smartphones. The app you’ll need to download to access the vaccine passport scheme is simply called “NHS App”.
The contact tracing app, called NHS COVID 19, is separate and will not include vaccine passports.
Open your App Store if using an iPhone, or the Google Play Store on an Android phone. Search for “NHS App” and it should be the top result.
The app is compatible with most Android smartphones. Any device running Android 5.0 and higher will be able to download and use it.
What do you need for a Covid pass?
The following Covid tests or vaccines are accepted to give users a complete Covid pass.
- Two doses of the Moderna, Astrazeneca or Pfizer vaccine, or one dose of the Janssen vaccine in England. The vaccines must be in use in the UK. The pass will be ready weeks after your final dose of the vaccine.
- A report of a positive PCR test within the last six months, valid for 180 days. Similarly to the lateral flow tests, this will not be sufficient from September.
- For domestic events only: A negative PCR or lateral flow test within 48 hours, which can activate as soon as you complete the test. This test needs to be registered online using the Register My Test Result service. A response may take up to two hours. However, this will not be accepted in some venues from September.
How does the app work?
The NHS app works by allowing people to register details such as their name, postcode and NHS number to link the app with their health record held by their GP.
This information is then shown in the app once people have logged into it, allowing them to see their vaccination record as well as other medical information such as allergies and appointment records.
To find your vaccination status in the app, users can click the tab “your health” or click on the service “get your NHS Covid pass”.
You will then be presented with a digital barcode, which can be presented at an event or when you travel for confirmation.
This can be downloaded as a PDF, or you can ask for it to be sent to your email address.
Will the NHS vaccine passports be accepted abroad?
The Government’s plan is for the vaccine passport scheme to be accepted abroad so that travellers can be allowed into other countries. However, the exact list of countries that will accept the app has not yet been announced.
It is hoped the NHS vaccine passport scheme will be compatible with the EU’s Digital Green Certificate scheme as well as the International Air Transport Association’s Travel Pass scheme.
The Government has said that Britons who can prove they have been fully vaccinated should satisfy the entry requirements of a growing list of countries including Greece, Croatia and Spain.
However, the UK’s Covid Pass scheme is not officially accepted as proof in many countries just yet, while the EU’s certificate is also not accepted in the UK. Some countries, such as Greece and Spain, have started accepting the UK’s pass.
Will the app be required to enter places like pubs or offices?
While the Government repeatedly played down the possibility that Covid passes could become the daily norm for going to the pub or an event, the Prime Minister told a press conference on July 19 that although he “certainly does not want to see passports for pubs” but went on to say that “we reserve a right to do what is best to protect the public.”
Several ministers have previously stated that they are uneasy about the implications for privacy and individual freedoms.
Additionally, there have been concerns that widespread use of such a vaccine certification to participate in daily life would be discriminatory.
How much of my personal data will be shared with the app?
Using the NHS app requires a certain amount of personal data. This can include your name, phone number, post code, although not your exact location, and email address. You can also enable other features such as facial recognition for logging into the app.
Will I be able to turn location tracking off?
The app will not need to track your exact location. It will simply show a form confirming your vaccine status. The current NHS app does use location services data.
What if I do not have a smartphone?
If you don’t have a smartphone, the Government can send you a letter with your vaccine status on it. From May 17, you can call 119 to speak to the NHS who can then send you an official note. This will take at least five working days.
What about children?
Since children are not yet eligible for Covid vaccines, they will not be able to use the vaccine passport function. They may have to get a negative test instead if they are travelling abroad and show proof of this.
How do vaccine passports work in other countries?
Israel has given inoculated citizens a Green Pass so they can use gyms and hotels. The system allows citizens who have been vaccinated, recently recovered from the virus or who have had a recent negative test to congregate in venues that have been closed for months such as theatres and nightclubs.
Can I get an NHS Covid Pass if I have been vaccinated abroad?
In most cases, no.
Many vaccines administered in foreign countries or at overseas vaccine centres will not work if you upload them to the app. Ministers promised in July to fix this issue, but many people are still complaining the app does not work for them.
China has built a vaccine passport system into WeChat, its most popular social network. Denmark has developed a “Coronapas” system granting access to hairdressers, restaurants and cinemas for immunised citizens.
Europe has announced an EU Digital Covid Certificate for people to show their vaccine or testing status.
Bahrain has introduced the “BeAware” app that can be used to prove that subjects have received two doses of a jab.