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UK: COVID passports for overseas travel could arrive by late June

COVID passports to allow travel to the US, France, Italy and Germany could be in place by June 28 under plans being considered by ministers.

Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, has called a meeting of his G7 counterparts at the summit in Cornwall on June 11-13 to create a system that could allow vaccinated travellers free entry into countries around the world.

He wants to establish agreed international standards under which a “green list” country could accept digital proof of vaccination, a negative test or immunity as a condition of entry.

The aim is to have pilot bilateral “travel corridors” where holidaymakers and business travellers could use COVID passports as early as June 28 to sidestep tests and quarantine if they are vaccinated.

One prime candidate for such a route would be the US, which accounts for one tenth of the UK’s entire air passenger traffic. Both the US and the UK have vaccinated more than two-thirds of their adult populations.

Joe Biden, the US president, has introduced a “short, sharp” near-total shutdown of the borders to international travellers as the country completes its vaccination programme before reopening in time for Independence Day on July 4.

The White House has, however, lifted restrictions on US citizens to allow them to travel freely at “low risk” to themselves two weeks after their final jab.

“G7 ministers will be looking at digital solutions to simplify and facilitate international travel and that would include vaccination passports,” said a government source. As well as the US, the G7 includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan.

Cyprus, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Malta and Iceland are among the countries which have already indicated that they will accept fully vaccinated Britons when the Government reopens foreign travel, due to be from May 17.

The Government has yet to declare which countries will be on the safe “green list”, exempting holidaymakers from facing quarantine on their return and requiring only a PCR test on or before day two of their arrival back in the UK.

However, the Department for Transport (DfT) aims to have the first paper or digital certificates for travellers to show they are vaccinated by May 17 if required for entry.

The list of red, amber and green countries is expected to be published the week before.

There will then be a ministerial review of the countries and restrictions on June 28, the first point at which the requirement for PCR tests on green routes and quarantine on amber routes could be lifted for vaccinated holidaymakers.

A senior travel industry source said: “We see no reason why the requirement for a PCR test on arrival from a green country should not be lifted at that point. You would take a free lateral flow test and only if negative have a PCR. The DfT is keen on that, but it will hinge on health and Number 10 backing it.”

On Monday Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, said fully vaccinated Americans looking to travel this summer will be able to add the European Union to their list of potential destinations, although she did not set a date for it.

Brussels said the EU would also be “open towards the UK” on this issue, although the commission said there have been “no contacts” with the UK over mutual recognition of Covid passports.

The commission is working to make sure travellers can corroborate vaccination with documentation compatible with its proposed Digital Green Certificate.

“All 27 member states will accept, unconditionally, all those who are vaccinated with vaccines that are approved by the European Medical Agency,” Mrs von der Leyen told the New York Times.

The commission is working with the US Department of Homeland Security on a system for the mutual recognition of vaccination passports. It has prompted concerns that the UK could be left behind unless it moves quickly to open talks with the US.

Virgin Atlantic said: “With world-leading vaccination programmes in both the UK and US, there is a clear opportunity to safely open up travel between these two countries and no reason to delay beyond May 17.”

Source: Charles Hymas – The Telegraph