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Scottish Government accused of ‘lagging behind’ on digital vaccine passports

Scots have faced difficulties getting access to the French 'health pass' scheme which launched on Monday and allows access to bars and restaurants, among other attractions.
Scots have faced difficulties getting access to the French 'health pass' scheme which launched on Monday and allows access to bars and restaurants, among other attractions.

Scots are facing barriers proving their vaccination status in some parts of Europe as the country lags behind developing its own digital app.

Travellers from Scotland can currently only get paper confirmation of their vaccination status, while England & Wales have a digital version with a QR code on their NHS app.

While the code is compatible with some EU apps like the French coronavirus app Tous-AntiCovid, officials have said it would not work with the Scottish and Northern Irish paper certificates.

The Scottish Government is currently developing a digital scheme to replace the paper Covid vaccination certificates which it aims to launch next month.

It awarded a £600,000 contract in June to Danish IT firm Netcompany to develop a vaccine passport similar to ones already in use elswhere in the UK and Europe.

However, opposition MSPs have claimed Scotland is now in “real danger of lagging behind” as international travel opens up again and have called for the issue to be addressed as a “matter of urgency”.

France and Norway open up

In France, there have been days of protests after the government launched its controversial Covid pass which individuals must use to enjoy restaurants and cafes, as well as travel across the country.

The ‘health pass’ scheme, which launched on Monday, requires a QR code and is therefore only compatible with the digital app used in England and Wales.

The French Government is in the process of setting up a system for vaccinated non-EU tourists visiting France, who do not have the QR code app, to apply for one.

However, currently this system is only open to those who are already in France or who will arrive on or before August 15.

Another option available to Scots is to get tested in a pharmacy in France every three days for the duration of the trip, according to advice being issued by the French Consulate in Glasgow.

People gathered in Paris to take part in a demonstration part of a national day of protest against the compulsory Covid-19 vaccination for certain workers and the mandatory use of the health pass called for by the French government.

Scots travellers could also face problems in Norway which has opened to NHS Covid pass users from England and Wales.

Under the new rules, entry restrictions will be loosened for fully jabbed arrivals from England and Wales using the app as proof of vaccination.

Norway will only accept QR code versions of the vaccine pass available on the app and no paper vaccine certificates will be accepted.

The system in Scotland is currently entirely paper-based and so Scots would currently be unable to benefit from the same relaxation of the travel rules.

‘Embarassing oversight’

Scottish Labour’s Health and Covid Recovery spokesperson Jackie Baillie said the “embarassing oversight must be addressed as a matter of urgency”.

She added: “We have known for months that this technology was going to be needed, so it beggars belief that the government haven’t even sorted out the basics.

“Scottish tourists are being blindsided with unfair and unnecessary restrictions abroad, purely as a result of the SNP’s incompetence.

North-east MSP Liam Kerr.

Scottish Conservative Shadow Transport Secretary Liam Kerr said the Scottish Government has had “months” to sort the issue out.

He added: “Other parts of the UK have had digital apps available for tourists to use for some time. Scotland is now in real danger of lagging behind, as we open up international travel again.

“Passengers keen to visit family or go on well-earned holidays cannot miss out as a result of the SNP’s continued delays.

“SNP ministers must give a guarantee once and for all as to when this app will finally be launched.

“That will finally give clarity and confidence to passengers and the travel industry as a whole going forward.”

EU Covid-19 Vaccination Passport

The European Union has introduced the EU Covid-19 vaccination passport in a bid to restore the freedom of travel within the block.

As the UK is no longer in the EU, the certificate is not available to most Britons.

It can be issued if someone has been vaccinated against Covid-19, recently had a negative PCR test or recently recovered from Covid-19.

EU Council staff members arrive to remove the United Kingdom’s flag from the European Council building in Brussels on Brexit Day, January 31.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We are developing an app to make it easier to show Covid status for international travel.

“This will include vaccination records and we aim to release this next month.”

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