British Airways has been trialling a vaccination recognition scheme for arrivals at Heathrow Airport.
Britain is looking to drop restrictions for fully vaccinated arrivals with overseas administered inoculations from August.
Currently, non-British residents arriving from amber listed countries must isolate for up to ten days even if they are fully vaccinated because the UK only recognises NHS-issued vaccination certificates.
“Because we are working at speed, at the moment it is UK nationals and citizens who have had UK vaccinations who will be able to travel to amber list countries (other than France) and come back and not quarantine,” said UK vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi.
However, he added that the UK wanted to offer the same reciprocity as the 33 countries that currently recognise the NHS vaccines app.
“And that will happen very soon,” he said.
The list of 33 countries to be offered reciprocity includes Hong Kong. Although Hong Kong is on England’s green list, which means arrivals travelling directly do not have to prove vaccination to avoid quarantine, transit through an amber country means they are subject to a ten day isolation. Meanwhile, NHS vaccination records are accepted on entry into Hong Kong.
According to Zahawi, by the end of July, UK nationals vaccinated overseas will be able to ask their GP to have their certificate registered with the NHS.
“The reason for the conversation with the GP is to make sure that whatever vaccine they have had is approved in the United Kingdom,” he said. Vaccines currently recognised in Britain include Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson/Janssen.
However, it’s hoped that vaccination records from overseas will also be recognised by border control, regardless as to whether the record has been registered with the NHS by a GP and regardless of citizenship.
Other countries targeted for the reciprocal arrangement include Anguilla, Greece, Ireland, Barbados, Bulgaria, the Cayman Islands, Croatia, Gibraltar, Iceland, Malta, Portugal, Spain, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, Turkey, Germany and France.
Heathrow Airport, Virgin and British Airways have now completed a ten-day pilot vaccination recognition scheme. Around 250 fully vaccinated passengers on selected flights from New York, Los Angeles, Jamaica and Athens were able to show their paper or digital vaccination records before boarding their flight. Ninety-nine per cent of documents were verified as authentic and just two passengers were rejected - one because the name on the record did not match the passport and one because the last jab had been administered less than 14 days before departure.
According to Heathrow boss John Holland-Kaye, “The vaccine has been a miracle of science and these trials have shown that we can allow fully vaccinated passengers from the EU and US to visit the UK without quarantine. There is now no reason to delay rolling out the solution from July 31.”
A review of border regulations is due by July 31 and the British government’s Covid Operations committee was due to meet today (Wednesday July 28).
Technically any changes will apply to England, as the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland set their own travel requirements. However, their rules are often closely linked to those of England.
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