Digital health passes are tipped to be key in the quest for reopening air travel this year. With several nations working on technological solutions to record and present important testing and vaccination details, United Kingdom’s authorities confirmed today that the country is also launching its own scheme.
Making use of existing tools
UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has shared details about the app-based approach. The system will enable travelers to show if they’ve been vaccinated or tested negative for the virus before heading overseas.
Notably, rather than designing a whole new application to launch this system, the government shares that it will be based on the existing NHS app. Shapps shares the following, as reported by Sky News:
“It will be the NHS app that is used for people when they book appointments with the NHS and so on, to be able to show you’ve had a vaccine or that you’ve had testing. I’m working internationally with partners across the world to make sure that system can be internationally recognised.”
Presently, the NHS app is a useful tool for numerous medical requirements. Features include the ability to manage appointments, register details, order repeat prescriptions, and find out general information.
It is natural that the UK would be keen to utilize the app in regard to COVID certification as it already can be used to view GP health records securely. With the population already familiar with this system, the storing and viewing of new data will be far more feasible than introducing a whole new program.
Diplomacy is vital
Nonetheless, even though the app’s scalability is a big plus within the UK, it’s also critical that it is recognized by other nations. To be used for international travel, there needs to be a universal understanding of these systems.
The European Commission hopes that airlines will be using its Digital Green Certificate by this summer. This certificate will include details about vaccinations, antibodies, and testing in a bid to open up free movement.
Moreover, airlines across the continent are trying their hand at several different apps to record COVID travel certification. So, with several destinations and companies implementing different systems, there needs to be coordination to allow people to safely travel as smoothly as possible.
Gearing up for a return
Altogether, the UK population will be eager to hear more details about travel requirements in and out of the country. Bar some exceptions, general international is banned until at least May 17th. However, this date is fast approaching, and the roadmap to reopening is still unclear.
For now, we know that the government is introducing a traffic light system. Still, the countries that will be red, amber, or green as part of this policy are yet to be announced.
One thing that is clear is that testing is here to stay. Shapps concluded the following in Sky News’ report:
“You will still need to take a pre-departure test and one test on your return. I think people are getting very used to testing now, not least because we provide testing up to twice a week for everyone in the country right now. So I don’t think a test itself is a big deal.”
Airlines are preparing for a busier summer schedule in comparison to the current downturn. Countries such as Portugal, Spain, and Greece are looking forward to welcoming back tourists. As a result, carriers are ramping up their frequencies in anticipation.
Travel has largely been suppressed amid ongoing travel restrictions and harsh conditions across the globe over the last year. Therefore, there is undoubtedly plenty of pent-up demand. Yet, the ability to fly is in the hands of governments and their policies. A balanced approach to enable safe but practical travel will be crucial in the next chapter.
What are your thoughts about the UK’s digital health pass plans? Is this a good move for the country? Let us know what you think in the comment section.