Vaccine passes are "an inevitability" when it comes to the resumption of international travel, according to the Airport Operators’ Association (AOA).
Spokesperson Henk van Klaveren told the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus (APPG) on Tuesday (4 May) that there was strong support for a four nations approach to the restart, and that it was vital the government worked towards implementing a single portal or app to allow UK citizens to verify their Covid status.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps last week revealed the government was working on using the existing NHS app to allow people to do this, effectively allowing the app to serve as a travel pass of sorts.
However, a spokesperson for the prime minister cast doubts on the readiness of this plan on Tuesday, telling the BBC the government couldn’t yet confirm whether it would be ready for 17 May and stated work on alternative plans was ongoing.
"Obviously, we will be able to confirm ahead of [17 May] what measures are used for those initial countries that are available for travel, be it the app or another approach," the BBC reports them as saying.
"There are other routes to achieving the same end-goal. We are working on the app at the moment, at pace, to have it ready," they added, stating the government would confirm its approach, or approaches, in advance.
Addressing the APPG, which called at the weekend for the resumption of international travel to be delayed and for the travel sector to be given more support to weather the crisis, van Klaveren said vaccine passports were an inevitability, at least in the interim.
"Countries will require them one way or another," he said. "Some may not, but a large number will.
"Whether we have a view on whether they are the right thing or not for travel, we just have to adapt to the reality that they are happening."
On the app, van Klaveren said the AOA would favour a four nations approach to the restart, and said the UK’s devolved administrations had come out strongly in support of a joined-up approach to restarting travel using a single portal or app that enables people to prove their vaccination status.
"This is not just about vaccination status," said Van Klaveren. "We’ve seen people will also require proof of testing, even if they are vaccinated. Again, it depends on different entry requirements, but some will require both."
However, while acknowledging that using the app to prove vaccination status should be "relatively simple" technically, van Klaveren said he was less confident about the integration of test results.
He also branded the government’s autumn deadline to digitise passenger locator forms "preposterous" and called for it to be done before the summer to avoid queues out the arrivals hall and onto the tarmac.
Additionally, he said the AOA had concerns about the cost of testing. "International travel this summer should be done in a risk-based proportional approach," he told the group.
Van Klaveren said the AOA supported the idea of a traffic light system for the resumption of international travel, but said it still had some concerns about the barriers’ in place – particularly with regards to affordability of travel to green list destinations.
"We do think low-risk countries with low prevalence [of Covid-19] and high rates of vaccination should be possible to travel to over the summer."