© Iain Masterton/Alamy/Henry Nicholls/ReutersCovid Passport App • Heathrow Airport London, Britain
International travellers will be asked to demonstrate their Covid vaccination and testing status using the NHS smartphone app, the UK government has confirmed, as experts warned that "vaccine passports" could be required for years.

The transport secretary, Grant Shapps, said work had started on developing the app many people used to book appointments with their GPs so that it could show whether they been vaccinated and tested for the virus. He promised that a list of possible holiday destinations would be released within a fortnight. But, in interviews on Wednesday morning, he was coy about when people would be able to start travelling abroad for holidays, saying the public would have to "wait and see" when they could go to some of the most popular foreign holiday destinations.

"Spain specifically, I'm afraid I just don't have the answer to that because the joint biosecurity centre will need to come up with their assessment and we can't do that until a bit nearer the time," he told Times Radio.

Speaking to Sky News, Shapps said:
"I have to say that so far the data does continue to look good from a UK perspective, notwithstanding those concerns about where people might be travelling to and making sure we're protected from the disease being reimported. We do need to make sure that we do this very, very carefully ... But, in the next couple of weeks, I'll come back on and I'll be able to tell you about which countries will have made it into the traffic light system - and that green list in particular. The green list would include the countries where you'll be able to go to without needing to quarantine on your return; you will still need to take a pre-departure test, and one test on your return.

"In terms of vaccine certification, I can confirm we are working on an NHS application - actually, it will be the NHS app that is used for people when they book appointments with the NHS and so on - to be able to show that you have had a vaccine or that you've had testing."
Recent reports had suggested ministers were planning such a move, with some saying businesses in England could also use it to determine whether to allow someone to come in.

However, certificates or vaccine passports for international travel were likely to be in place for the long term, Christopher Dye, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Oxford, told the UK science and technology select committee on Wednesday morning.
"One reason is that Covid is not going to go away; it is going to be endemic around the world, it is going to keep resurfacing, and I think that, just as we've had yellow fever passports for years and years and years, we're going to have Covid passports too."
Dr Ruth Payne, of the University of Sheffield, added:
"I think once something is introduced and it has been used for several years, it is very unlikely that it will be retracted."
The Science and Technology Committee also heard from Prof Ran Balicer, chair of the Israeli national Covid-19 experts advisory team - the Israeli equivalent of Sage - who discussed the effect of the country's "green pass" system of Covid certification. Introduced in February, it has allowed people to access gyms, restaurants, theatres, cinemas, sporting venues, hotels and cultural events, provided they showed proof of having received both doses of a coronavirus vaccine or having recovered from infection. The system has been a "tremendous success" Balicer said. "We have not seen an outbreak in any setting where the green pass system has been in place."