Friday, January 21, 2022

What is an NHS Covid Passport and when do I need to use it?

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The social restrictions of the UK Government’s ‘Plan B’ to combat the spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus remain in place for the time being, with NHS Covid passports now mandatory in certain settings.

Following the return of mask requirements in shops, cinemas, theaters and places of worship, as well as on public transport and orders to work from home, citizens are now required to present an NHS Covid passport to gain access to crowded venues.

The passport, which is proof of vaccination status and/or proof of a negative test result, is required in unseated indoor venues with more than 500 people present and in unseated outdoor areas with more than 4,000 people present – and in all venues with more than 10,000 like sports stadiums.

It may also be required as a condition of foreign travel.

“The NHS Covid Passport can still be purchased with two doses, but we will keep this in mind as the boosters are rolled out,” Boris Johnson said when announcing further tightening of restrictions on December 8.

“And having sought clinical advice since Omicron came out, even a negative lateral flow test will suffice.

“As we have set out in Plan B, we will provide business a week’s notice so this takes effect in a week to help ensure these events and venues remain open at full capacity while also providing everyone who attends trusting those around them have done responsible things to minimize the risk to others.”

The NHS Covid pass rules are by no means popular with all of Mr Johnson’s Conservatives, some of whom see them as a violation of civil liberties, a stance Tory MP Marcus Fysh took to the extreme when he compared their introduction to Nazi Germany.

A major backbench rebellion erupted on Tuesday, December 14, when MPs in the House of Commons voted in favor of Plan B restrictions. The revolt was also in part a protest at the prime minister’s increasingly worn-down and scandal-ridden leadership.

The Liberal Democrats also objected to the passports, earlier this year accusing the government of “secretly” introducing ID cards when the NHS app was updated, and since then calling them “illiberal and destructive” and warning that they are being used “to represent a massive change in the relationship between ordinary people and their government”.

However, as Sir Keir Starmer’s opposition Labor Party would always support the government’s position, believing it was in the national interest to do so, the mutiny did not prevent the measures from being adopted.

To access your digital NHS Covid Pass you need to download the free NHS app on your smartphone – and be registered with a GP in England to access it.

By simply logging into the app, you can provide evidence of your Covid-19 vaccination or negative test status upon request, the information will be displayed along with a QR code to scan.

The code to prove your vaccination is valid for 30 days from the time you access it or download it as a PDF. After that, you need to update it to get a new version.

A Covid passport secured via a negative test result, meanwhile, only lasts 48 hours before a new version is needed (available in the same easy way).

If for some reason you are unable to use the app you can also check your vaccination status on the NHS website or print a paper version at home before traveling to your destination.

Those who do not have access to online services can also call 119 to request a letter proving their vaccination status instead.

People who cannot be vaccinated or tested for medical reasons can apply to the NHS for an exemption to stand in their place.

More information can be found on the government website.

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