British tourists are having difficulties proving their vaccination status in Europe After the delay in linking the NHS Covid card to the EU system due to loopholes in the British government’s request to Brussels.
The IT link will ensure automatic recognition across the 27 member states of the information on the NHS app, facilitating international travel and hospitality access where proof of vaccine status is required.
The UK government submitted a request to link to the EU’s digital certificate on July 28, but the European Commission delayed granting its approval because it sought additional technical information from Whitehall, the Guardian understands.
While at least 19 EU countries, including major tourist destinations such as France and Spain, have unilaterally accepted the NHS application as evidence of vaccine status, difficulties remain for some travelers from England and Wales due to the lack of EU recognition.
According to the UK government’s latest advice, Hungary will only accept a locally issued certificate of immunity as proof of vaccine status from travelers from the UK by air.
In Italy, travelers from England and Wales have reported problems entering bars and restaurants using the NHS Covid corridor while those seeking to enter Latvia and the Czech Republic have been told they need to have a paper certificate.
The UK has been in technical talks with the Commission for months about linking the NHS Covid card to an EU pass. Both systems use a QR code that can be scanned to allow verification.
The link between the two will ensure that both sides can digitally verify Covid certificates without the need for physical checks. British officials said it would provide more guarantees for travelers.
While the UK’s application has been slow to be submitted and accepted, the Swiss vaccination passport was approved on July 8 while vaccine certificates issued in Ukraine, Turkey and North Macedonia have been possible in the EU since last Friday.
North Macedonia applied for recognition on July 8, while Turkey submitted its application on July 9 and Ukraine sought equivalency on July 16.
A UK government spokesperson said: “We have applied to link to the EU’s Covid Digital Certificate (DCC) scheme. We expect the EU technical evaluation of the DCC application to take a few weeks, as has been the case with Switzerland and other countries.
“We have had good technical exchanges with the EU Commission regarding our application. While the application is being considered, member states are still able to make an individual decision to accept UK Covid certificates.”
Since 2 August, people who have been fully vaccinated are allowed to travel to the UK from the EU without having to be quarantined on arrival.
Border policy is a national issue for the 27 member states of the European Union, but most governments have followed the directions from Brussels by opening up to those who can prove they have been fully vaccinated. Unlike England, Wales and Northern Ireland, Scotland does not yet have an app that transmits vaccine information.
An EU digital Covid certificate showing whether a person has been fully vaccinated, recovered from a Covid-19 infection or recently had a negative Covid test
The European Union recognizes only four vaccines approved by the European Medicines Agency – BioNTech/Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson – although governments can decide to accept those produced in Russia and China.
A spokesperson for the Commission was unable to say when the so-called ‘parity’ would be awarded for NHS Covid pass.