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Will you need a ‘vaccine passport’ to travel?

Emma Lunn
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Emma Lunn

Prime minister Boris Johnson has promised a review of so-called ‘vaccine passports’ as holiday bookings soar following publication of the roadmap out of lockdown.

According to plans laid out yesterday, Brits could potentially travel abroad from 17 May, subject to a review of international travel due to take place in April.

But whether travelers will need to show a ‘vaccine passport’ to leave the UK or enter another country is a controversial issue.

The government has generally dismissed the idea of vaccinated people needing to prove they have had the jab to enter places such as pubs and theatres, with several ministers branding the idea ‘discriminatory’.

Speaking during a visit to a south London school, Johnson said there were “deep and complex issues that we need to explore” and that the UK had “never thought in terms of having something that you have to show to go to a pub or a theatre”.

He said there were “ethical issues” about the role of government “in mandating… or banning people from doing such a thing.”

Some companies have already taken the controversial step of announcing that they will only hire workers who have had the jab.

But if other countries require arrivals to prove they have been vaccinated against coronavirus to cross borders, it may be the only way Brits can travel again.

The travel industry has been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic, with ever-changing rules about travel bans, border closures, pre-travel testing and hotel quarantine making overseas travel virtually impossible for almost a year.

Although no vaccines so far offer a 100% guarantee of not catching coronavirus, being vaccinated means you will be unlikely to suffer from severe Covid-19 that might require hospitalisation abroad.

Senior minister Michael Gove is set to lead a review into vaccine passports. The most likely scenario is that some kind of vaccine certificate will be needed for international travel in the future. This might work in a similar way to yellow fever vaccination certificates necessary to enter certain countries.

Even if the UK government gives the green light to travel after 17 May, or later on in the summer, foreign governments will need to agree that Brits can visit.

Some countries such as Australia and New Zealand haven’t been open to visitors for almost a year while other destinations, such as France and Spain, are currently not allowing tourists from the UK due to new variants of coronavirus.

Several countries have suggested they might accept vaccinated visitors in the future. For example, the Seychelles, Georgia, Estonia and Romania offer quarantine exemption for travelers who have had Covid-19 in the past few months or who have been vaccinated against the virus.

Travel association ABTA is in favour of vaccine passports. It said: “What we would like to hear from government are the principles for restarting travel, including working with other countries to develop an internationally recognised vaccine certificate.

“This evidence, alongside testing, is certain to accelerate the reopening of travel. There also needs to be recognition that not everyone can or will want to be vaccinated, so a practical and cost-effective testing regime will be critical.”

Currently anyone who does decide to book a summer holiday faces something of a travel insurance conundrum, with not all policies covering cancellation if you catch Covid before your holiday, are told to isolate or if there is another lockdown.