Technology company launches UK's first Covid-19 vaccine passport

Pressure builds on Boris Johnson to set out return of international travel

A passenger pushes a trolley through the Arrival Hall of Terminal 5 at London's Heathrow Airport after arriving into the UK following the suspension of the travel corridors. Passengers arriving from anywhere outside the UK, Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man must have proof of a negative coronavirus test and self-isolate for 10 days. Picture date: Monday January 18, 2021. (Photo by Kirsty O'Connor/PA Images via Getty Images)
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A UK technology company has launched what it says is the first Covid-19 passport scheme, ahead of official plans being unveiled by the government.

It is understood that ministers are hoping to make digital vaccine passports available from as early as next month.

However, the private sector appears to be the first out of the gates, with tech company iPlato Healthcare launching an independent scheme.

The company’s product, myGP TICKet, is a smartphone app that allows users to see their Covid-19 vaccination status.

A green tick is shown next to their photograph 12 days after they have received their second dose.

The verification feature, which is linked to patient medical records, is only enabled when requested by users. The app is independent of Covid-19 certifications being examined by ministers. Those registered with most GPs in England will be able to sign up for the app.

Ahead of its official launch on Wednesday, the scheme was piloted by Barchester and Lillian Faitful care homes to allow staff to demonstrate their vaccination status.

Hillary Cannon, director of myGP TICKet, said it is hoped the app will allow the safe reopening of the UK economy.

“We all know that lockdowns and social distancing have brought live events, restaurants and the hospitality sector – all of our most beloved industry sectors – to their knees,” she said.

“So, it has been a passion project of mine to reopen these businesses at capacity, or as close as possible, as soon as possible.”

She said patients' other medical information was kept confidential.

“Recognising the likelihood that a user may need, or indeed want, to demonstrate their vaccination status, we developed this feature to isolate just vaccination information, whilst keeping confidential the rest of the information contained within the medical record,” she said.

“All access is controlled by the patient, and nothing is stored or displayed without a user’s explicit consent.”

Meanwhile, it is understood the government is working on a plan to make digital vaccine passports that show proof of inoculation available next month.

Government officials told industry figures during a call on Wednesday that the passports would support the return of travel, The Telegraph reported.

The move comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson faces renewed pressure to set out his plans for the resumption of foreign travel.

The Conservative Party-controlled Transport Committee on Thursday set the government a deadline of May 1 to set out how countries will move between the traffic-light system that will control border movements.

People travelling from green list countries will not be required to quarantine on arrival in the UK.

The committee also wants to divert part of the NHS’s “extensive testing capabilities” to support the return of international travel.

MPs argued that the requirement that people pay for their own PCR tests when arriving in the UK would make travel unaffordable for those on low incomes.

The travel industry, hit hard by the pandemic, faces a toughening outlook.

On Wednesday, the International Air Transport Association said airlines will lose $48 billion this year, with Europe being the slowest region to recover.

This week, the UK’s red travel ban list expanded to include India, where coronavirus cases are surging.

The traffic-light system will classify countries into green, amber and red based on Covid-19 infection and vaccination rates.