The tourism industries of Spain, Greece and other popular European destinations can breathe a sigh of relief. Because according to a leaked report published Wednesday afternoon in the Telegraph, the UK is preparing to make COVID-19 passports available as early as next month, allowing Britons to book their summer holidays without any apprehension.
Britain's Department for Transport wants an official certification scheme that gives British travelers a document they can show at borders overseas in place by May 17. In order to help avoid yet another brutally slow tourism season, the EU has recommended that vaccinated travelers should be able to bypass quarantines and other travel restrictions, even though the WHO recently argued that country's shouldn't impose vaccination checks on travelers.
The Telegraph first caught word of the plan when it heard about details of a call involving the travel industry and government regulators.
The advanced state of the plans emerged after The Telegraph learnt of details of a telephone call between government officials and industry figures.
The call took place on Wednesday afternoon between members of the Tourism Industry Emergency Response Group and involved discussion of the latest thinking on border reopenings.
A government official on the call is understood to have said: “We aim to give people the ability to prove their vaccine status by the time international travel restarts where other countries require it. The earliest that will restart is May 17."
The comment was noted during the call by one industry source. A second confirmed the broad accuracy of the remark. DfT sources did not dispute it.
The comment is in line with private briefings from government figures that the ban on overseas holidays is expected to be lifted on May 17 at the next stage of reopening.
However, for now, the Government is yet to lock in the May 17 return of overseas holidays, with a final decision expected to be taken early next month once more Covid case data are received.
The paper added that the new "vaccine passport" would likely grant vaccinated Britons (roughly half of Britons have had at least one jab) access to 20 countries that have indicated they could ask travellers for proof of vaccination, such as Israel, Croatia, Turkey, Spain, Portugal and Cyprus. According to data from the NHS, over 33 million people have had a first vaccine dose and more than 10 million have had a second.
Greece will likely be especially grateful for the British vaccine passport, particularly after the US added Greece to the list of nations hit by a new level four State Department travel advisory.
Despite this, Greece has moved to reopen its tourism industry by dropping quarantine rules for travelers from more than 30 nations if they can prove they have been vaccinated, or recently tested negative, for COVID-19.
Just because it's embracing "vaccine passports" doesn't mean the UK won't adopt travel advisories of its own. Though these advisories, like those implemented last year, will apply to foreigners traveling to the UK. When borders reopen, countries will be divided into green, amber and red categories, with testing required in the former and hotel quarantine in the latter. It is unclear how vaccination status will be factored into this system.
Source: the Telegraph
Circling back to the UK, the vaccine certificate could come in either digital or physical form. Right now, government officials exploring the best way to make it work in the tight time frame, and a final conclusion has yet to be reached.