Covid vaccine passports set to be ready for May 17 when foreign travel resumes for Brits, top minister says
VACCINE passports are set to be ready in time for the May 17 reopening of foreign travel, a top minister declared today.
Nadhim Zahawi said officials are working to make sure the Covid certificates can be issued in time for people to jet off on their hols.
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It comes with countries including Greece, Spain, and Portugal all jostling to welcome back UK tourists as soon as possible.
The vaccines minister also gave Brits a major boost by announcing the country is on track to hit the final two steps of the PM's lockdown roadmap on time.
He confirmed people won't need to present Covid papers when going to pubs and restaurants when they fully reopen indoors next month.
But he said the documents should still be available for international travel, with many destinations demanding proof of a jab for entry.
He said: "For travel overseas, clearly a number of countries are now indicating they will request a Covid certification.
"That's proof of either a Covid jab, or obviously a test as we currently request a pre-departure test certificate – other countries do the same thing.
"So, NHSX under Matthew Gould are working on making that operationally possible by the 17th of May.
"Internationally, it is right to make the certification available for our citizens and to shape the protocols around the world.
"Because clearly a number of countries are going to do this – we'd much rather do it in a co-ordinated way."
NHSX is government unit tasked with developing national policy on health service technology.
It is headed up by Matthew Gould, a former British ambassador to Israel.
Mr Zahawi's remarks come after transport secretary Grant Shapps confirmed the new Covid passports will be hosted on the NHS app.
He also gave an update on their possible use domestically, suggesting they may be needed to get big events like football matches back to full capacity.
The minister said: "We are exploring through the different pilots that were running.
"Certainly for massive events, which could prove more challenging for us to open up, say Wembley Stadium for the semi-final of the FA Cup or the final.
"If you want to go to 100% seat capacity at Wembley, you have to look at all these technologies that are available to you.
"And I think it's only right and responsible for any government to explore that."
But he acknowledged there are "some very important questions" around jabs certificates and insisted "we can't be discriminatory in any way on this".
Mr Zahawi also insisted while the UK's pandemic figures have hit a new low the country still needs to be "careful" when unlocking.
And he revealed booster jabs for the elderly and vulnerable, earmarked for the Autumn, may not be issued until early next year.
The vaccines minister said scientists will make the call on when the top-up shots would be most effective, but they'll be ready to go from September.
And he announced hopes that at the start of next year "we will begin to move from pandemic to endemic and treat it like the flu".
He said: "At the moment only one in four adults have actually had the two doses.
"We are accelerating doses – April is a big second dose month – but let me show the flip side of why we have to be careful.
"If the vaccines have 85% efficacy and we vaccinate fully 85% of the adult population, that is still only 72% protection.
"That is quite a sizeable percentage for the virus to go after and infect, which is why we have to be careful.
"The good news is we're not seeing any evidence that would lead us to believe we can't meet the next step in May and, ultimately, June 23.
"It is much better to be careful and follow the data and collect the data properly, analyse and then make a decision."
He said: "We all want obviously to get our freedoms back as quickly as possible but let us do this properly and let's do it safely.
"The data is looking good and positive but nevertheless we really have to be careful.
"Because what we don't want is mutations, for example, to blindside us and then have another spike."
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