‘Great uncertainty’ around holidays, Van-Tam warns as EU plans vaccine passport
By David Hughes, PA Political Editor
The UK will examine European Union proposals for a vaccine passport in the hope of reviving international travel for the summer holidays.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Britain was working with the EU and countries around the world on the issue.
But England’s deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said there was still “great uncertainty” around holidays on the continent – partly because the European Union’s vaccination programmes were behind the UK’s.
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said plans for a “digital green pass” will be set out this month, which would allow people to prove they have been vaccinated or show the results of coronavirus tests.
Ms von der Leyen said the digital green pass “should facilitate Europeans’ lives”.
She said: “The aim is to gradually enable them to move safely in the European Union or abroad – for work or tourism.”
Mr Hancock told a Downing Street press conference the UK was “working with international partners” on the issue.
“The EU is part of those discussions, as are several other countries around the world, and it’s obviously important work,” he said.
“What I’d also say is that in a sense this already exists because you need to have a test before you can travel to the UK and, as far as I understand it from the details set out today, the EU proposal is that certification includes both whether you’ve had the vaccine and also whether you’ve recently had a test for those who can’t get vaccinated yet, which is obviously particularly important.
“Therefore it’s something that we’re working with them and others on and it matters that we get the details of this right for international travel.”
Prof Van-Tam struck a cautious tone about foreign travel, saying: “We are still in a zone of great uncertainty about what the virus will do next.
“On top of that, many of the vaccination programmes in Europe – which is a place where we frequently go on holiday abroad – are running behind ours.
“Clearly, whether we can go on holiday abroad to places such as Europe depends on what other countries will say and do in terms of foreign tourism.
“There has to be great uncertainty at the moment.”
Downing Street said Department for Transport officials will speak to the EU about the approach it is planning for the 27-member bloc.
The UK Government has said that once more is known about the impact of vaccines it could introduce a system to allow people who have had a jab to travel more freely internationally.
Officials want the UK to use its presidency of the G7 group of industrialised countries to help agree an international approach to the issue.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We have said that we are looking at the issue of vaccine passports.
“As you can expect, DfT (the Department for Transport) will work (with) and do speak to countries across the world in terms of how they may look to introduce passports.”
The spokesman would not pre-empt the outcomes of the UK Government’s review.
But “of course you can expect us to speak to the EU and other countries on how they may implement any similar sorts of policies”, they added.