The NHS App is to be used as a Covid-19 passport for travel overseas, the transport secretary has confirmed.
Speaking to Sky News today, Grant Shapps confirmed the app will be used as proof Brits have had their Covid-19 vaccination, or tested negative for the virus, before going on holiday.
“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,” Shapps said.
He added that he is working with other countries to ensure the system is internationally recognised.
The NHS App allows users to access a range of NHS services on their smartphone or tablet. It was launched in 2018 and offers services including symptom checking and triage; appointment booking; repeat prescription ordering; access to patient records; national data opt-out; and organ donation preference.
Users can already check their vaccination status through the app if permitted by their GP. This applies to all vaccines.
Since September 2019, the number of registered NHS App users has risen from 91,000 to over 220,000, according to NHS Digital. The NHS App is separate from the NHS Covid-19 app which was designed specifically as a contact-tracing app.
People will still be required to “check-in” to venues using the QR code scanner on the NHS Covid-19 app, as well as using it to check symptoms and enter test results.
A government spokesperson said: “The government is working on providing individuals with the means to demonstrate their Covid status easily – through a digital route as well as a route for people who don’t have access to a smart phone.
“Security and privacy will be at the core of our approach. Use of the NHS App is being considered as part of the digital route.”
The Covid-19 passport on the NHS App will only be required when travelling overseas.
Shapps told Sky News that the list of countries people will be able to travel to without having to quarantine when they arrive back home will be revealed “in the next couple of weeks”.
People returning from those countries will still be required to take a Covid-19 test before coming home, as well as when they return to the UK.
The NHS Covid-19 App
The contact-tracing app was launched in September 2020 as a digital solution to support NHS Test and Trace. Since its launch it has been downloaded 21.63 million times, with 1.7 million users advised to self-isolate following close contact with someone who had tested positive, Department of Health and Social Care figures show.
As gyms, pubs, restaurants and other venues opened on April 12 an update to the app was rolled out to allow users to share details of the venues they’ve visited if they test positive for the virus.
The app previously used QR code check-ins to trace the venues users had visited, but the information was only used to notify users if there had been an outbreak linked to that venue.
The app uses Bluetooth technology to track time and distance between devices, flagging those who have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19.
Data on the app is now published weekly alongside Test and Trace data. It has undergone several updates since its launch, including interoperability with the Scottish and Northern Ireland app; updates to accuracy; and the implementation of self-isolation payments.
For a more in-depth look at the NHS Covid-19 app, and what went wrong along the way, take a look at our timeline of events here.