Grant Shapps outlines the 'way forward' for vaccine passports
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From May 17 Britons have been allowed to jet off on a leisure holiday under the Government’s “traffic light system”. While many Britons may have initially rejoiced at the news, the “green list” turned out to offer a limited number of destinations Britons can feasibly travel to.
Just 12 countries earned a place on the list; with Portugal one of the few easily accessible destinations that is actually allowing Britons to visit.
Despite this, Nicky Kelvin, editor of content at The Points Guy UK shared his optimistic outlook for holidays to some “amber list” destinations.
In particular, the expert predicted Britons are likely to set their sights on Greece and its islands “regardless of whether it will make the green list or not.”
“The key green list destination is Portugal which has allowed British tourists in since May 17,” Mr Kelvin explained to Express.co.uk.
“We will have to wait and see how the Government treats other summer hotspots, such as Greece, in the coming weeks in relation to the traffic light system.
“Greece and others have clearly said they will be allowing tourism from England this year – potentially leading to an increase in booking regardless of whether it will make the green list or not.”
While Greece is currently working on developing a vaccine passport in tandem with the European Union, already the nation has vowed to welcome back British tourists with or without a vaccine.
Though no one knows if or when Greece will make it onto the “green list”, the nation’s tourism minister Haris Theoharis has shown confidence it will be soon.
The minister said he was disappointed the nation isn’t on the initial list, but is confident that Greece will be moved onto the green list on June 7 alongside other holiday hotspots such as Spain, Croatia and Italy.
However, as Mr Kelvin pointed out, changes to the lists are likely and could come at short notice.
“As we saw last summer, destinations can rapidly swing from ‘safe’ to ‘unsafe’ and back again – making booking travel in advance difficult,” he said.
“However, unlike last year, arrivals from amber countries will be required to quarantine once back in the UK – as well as undergoing two tests during their quarantine, with ‘green list’ arrivals also required to test both prior to departure and post-arrival.
“The two-test approach to the lowest-risk countries could price some families out of travelling abroad, meaning we could see staycations remaining popular this summer.”
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He continued: “This year the Government has also said that it will introduce a ‘watchlist’ for travellers to know if a country is nearing a move from one level to another.
“For example, a ‘red watchlist” will show if a country is at risk of moving from ‘amber’ to ‘red’– making it easier to plan ahead.
“Regardless, we will recommend only booking plans with flexible policies to avoid disappointment.”
It is likely new travel rules are also set to continue well into the future, meaning COVID-19 testing and proof of vaccination could be the ticket to a holiday.
“Covid is here to stay and there are likely to be long term impacts,” said Mr Kelvin.
“We may see testing, vaccines and other precautions like masks sticking around travel for quite a while.
“In some parts of the world, proving vaccination status for Yellow Fever for example is common and proving Covid status is no different.
“These sort of precautions will become the norm and will continue to align globally making them less complex and stressful.”
Yet, Mr Kelvin points out there could be some areas of concern – particularly when it comes to the development of vaccine passports.
“The glaring issue here will be for those that are unable or unwilling to get vaccinated,” he said.
“If vaccines become an absolute requirement in some places, although exemptions are likely, these won’t help if it simply isn’t your turn yet, then there could be a proportion of the population for whom the world doesn’t truly open up.”
It comes following the recent UK Government confirmation that an NHS app will be used to store data on travellers’ vaccination records. This can then be used as a vaccine passport-style app.
“The UK Government has confirmed that English travellers will use the NHS app as its digital vaccine passport,” said Mr Kelvin.
“Within the app, travellers will be able to upload a negative COVID-19 test result, as well as display their vaccination status.
“It’s worth noting that it won’t be the NHS COVID-19 track and trace app, which you use to check in to restaurants and pubs, but instead, it will be available on the standard NHS app that is used to book appointments.”
Though the Government vowed the technology is now ready for use, if Britons are unable to access the app, they could face issues.
“Britons may have to look at other ways to prove their status,” added Mr Kelvin.
Luckily, Greece has confirmed there will be other ways for holidaymakers to prove their testing and vaccination history.
Travel elsewhere, however, remains to be seen.
“Although Greece has said they will accept the NHS paper certificate as proof of vaccination, it’s currently unsure if other countries will follow suit – perhaps causing confusion for holidaymakers who plan on travelling prior to this,” said Mr Kelvin.
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