Cabinet ministers have backed the use of vaccine certificates for travellers wanting to head abroad this year.
The certificates will verify Covid inoculations and will be developed by the government, following the likes of Greece, Spain, Poland, Iceland and Portugal to commit to similar schemes.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps will head up the programme which is likely to operate like yellow fever cards.
Cabinet ministers have backed the use of vaccine certificates for travellers wanting to head abroad this year
The development is going ahead in anticipation of an agreed international system for travel, with countries requesting the certificates as a condition of entry.
It comes despite a government source saying on Friday it was ‘too early’ to think about holidays, which will not be possible until infection numbers are at much lower levels.
An association of airlines, IATA, has held talks with the UK about its app TravelPass, which could function as the certificate, The Telegraph reports.
The app is already being trialled by IAG, the company that owns British Airways, and its CEO Alexandre de Juniac said he was ‘pretty optimistic’ the system could be up and running by the end of March.
He added the Department for Transport was ‘very interested’.
Travellers would have to either download the app as proof of their vaccination or airlines could use the existing IATA technology and incorporate it within their own apps.
The Cabinet’s Covid operational committee discussed the proposals at a meeting on Friday.
They agreed in principle to prepare options in anticipation of the recognised international system.
Mr Shapps said earlier this week: ‘Just as we have things like the yellow fever card, I imagine that in the future there’ll be an international system where countries will want to know that you’ve been potentially vaccinated or had tests taken before flying, before you come in.’
Other potential methods to prove vaccinations could involve facial recognition software QR scanning codes at airports.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps will head up the programme which is likely to operate like yellow fever cards
The optimism regarding holidays for those vaccinated is being dulled by scientists who fear opening up international travel could lead to mutations being brought back to the UK and spread much faster.
It has led to confusion among ministers who bickered over whether it is safe to book a summer break in the UK this year.
Shapps sparked a furious backlash after declaring this week: ‘People shouldn’t be booking holidays right now – not domestically or internationally.’
As anger mounted, Downing Street appeared to distance itself from Mr Shapps at lunchtime, saying it was a ‘choice for individuals’.
But Boris Johnson, who earlier this month said he was ‘optimistic’ about the prospect of summer holidays, appeared to change his mind.
The Prime Minister told a Downing Street press conference it was ‘just too early for people to be certain about what we will be able to do this summer’.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock then revealed to Tory MPs he has already booked a holiday in Cornwall this summer.
Whitehall sources told the Mail that, despite the cautious message from the PM, Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden are working on packages to promote holidays in the UK.
Ministers have already put dreams of a summer break abroad in jeopardy with the introduction of draconian border controls backed by the threat of ten-year prison sentences for those who try to cheat the system.
It comes as the NHS is on course to reach its target of vaccinating 15million Britons on Saturday.
In a major step forward in the battle against coronavirus, 14,012,224 first doses of the Pfizer and Oxford jabs have been administered.
The total includes more than 500,000 from Thursday, meaning the 15million target should be hit 48 hours ahead of schedule.
The focus has been on the top four priority groups: the over-70s, care home residents, healthcare workers and people shielding.
The R number is now below one for the first time since July.