Britons will need to use an NHS smartphone app to prove that they’ve been vaccinated against Covid-19, or have received a negative test that permits them to travel, when foreign travel from the UK is permitted from May 17, it’s been announced.
The requirement was confirmed by Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, as reported by Sky News, and it could pose problems for people who don’t have the required technology for the ‘vaccine passport’, as it’s colloquially being called.
It’s not clear yet if there will be a low-tech way of proving you’re Covid-free when travelling, but further information will likely be provided before May 17 (that’s assuming the government sticks to its current timetable for opening up foreign travel), to give those planning trips time to prepare.
Which NHS app?
Many people have been using the NHS COVID-19 app to check into bars and restaurants for some time now, but that’s not the app that’ll be required for travel.
Instead, you’ll need use the main NHS App, which is already used for booking appointments and more. You can find the Google Play Store listing here, and the Apple App Store listing here. The app works on tablets as well as smartphones.
Is my smartphone compatible?
The NHS App runs on iOS 9 and above, or Android 5 and above, which basically covers all phones launched since 2015.
The iPhone 5 and newer iPhones will run the app, as well as all iPad Pros and iPad Airs, all iPad minis save the original, and entry-level iPads since the 2016 model.
We can’t list all the Android phones that run the fifth-gen version of the operating system (also called Lollipop) as there are just so many of them – to find out if your device is compatible head to the Settings > About Phone > ‘Android version’ to find out. If you’re not on Android 5 or above, check in that menu to see if an update is available to you, as it might put you over the cut-off for compatibility.
The NHS App doesn’t run on Windows Phone devices, so if you have such a phone you’re out of luck.
In addition, the NHS App isn’t available on newer Huawei phones since the Mate 30 and P40, as these handsets aren’t able access to the Google Play Store, and the NHS App isn’t on Huawei’s replacement AppGallery.
What if I don’t have a compatible phone?
If you have an older smartphone, or don’t have a smartphone, you may find that you have a problem when travelling. As mentioned, no alternative option for proving that you’re eligible to travel has been announced yet, but we might hear something closer to May 17.
You can buy cheap Android phones and budget tablets for as little as £50 if you shop around online or in brick-and-mortar stores – devices from Lenovo, Nokia and Redmi tend to be good budget options, although that’s a lot of money just to guarantee you’re able to travel, if you don’t otherwise need such a device.
We’ll update this article as we hear more news.