Virgin Atlantic to trial vaccine passport app trial on Heathrow to Barbados flights

Virgin Atlantic has become the latest airline to announce a trial of so-called vaccine passports.

Customers on flights to Barbados from April 16 will be invited to use the Travel Pass app to verify they meet the Caribbean island’s entry requirements for pre-departure coronavirus testing.

Future versions of the app – developed by airline trade body the International Air Transport Association – will also include coronavirus vaccine records.

Virgin Atlantic said it will seek permission from the UK Government to expand the trial to accommodate customers arriving on flights from Barbados to London Heathrow.

Virgin Atlantic will use the app on flights to Barbados from April 16 and is seeking permission to also use it on the return leg

A number of other airlines are also using the app, including British Airways, Singapore Airlines, Emirates, Qantas and Qatar Airways.

Virgin Atlantic chief customer and operating officer Corneel Koster said: ‘In parallel to the UK’s successful vaccination programme and accompanied by a risk-based, phased easing of restrictions, we can see a flightpath to soon allow the safe restart of international travel at scale, in time for summer.

‘When the skies reopen, rapid affordable testing combined with digital health integration will be vital to streamline and simplify the customer experience, make border health checks manageable and build consumer confidence.

‘Governments, industry and technology companies need to work together to lead the adoption of digital solutions with global common standards that are accepted at borders.’

Other airlines using the app include British Airways, Singapore Airlines, Emirates, Qantas and Qatar Airways

Other airlines using the app include British Airways, Singapore Airlines, Emirates, Qantas and Qatar Airways

From next week, passengers flying with Virgin Atlantic to the US will be able to upload their test documents to a website operated by US firm TrustAssure, where they will be checked using automated artificial intelligence technology within two minutes.

Once verification is completed, travellers will be sent a QR code enabling them to pass through the airport check-in process.

Overseas holidays are banned due to the UK’s coronavirus lockdown, but Boris Johnson said on Wednesday he will make an announcement on April 5 about lifting restrictions.

The Government’s Global Travel Taskforce will provide a report to the Prime Minister on April 12 setting out recommendations for how and when foreign holidays could resume.

Passengers flying to Barbados (pictured) will use the app which later will also include vaccine information

Passengers flying to Barbados (pictured) will use the app which later will also include vaccine information

Under his road map for easing restrictions, the earliest date for travel is May 17.

The EU has already presented plans to issue ‘digital green certificates’ allowing its 450million people to travel freely across the bloc this summer.

The scheme, which will be discussed next week during a summit of EU leaders, will facilitate travel across Europe for people who have been vaccinated as well as others who have recently been tested or recovered from Covid-19.

Britons will not be automatically eligible under the current plans but will be able to apply for a certificate from the specific country in the EU they intend to visit, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said.

It comes as a YouGov poll this week revealed more Britons think vaccine passports should be brought in for people using gyms than those visiting hospitals or GP surgeries.

Fifty-six per cent of respondents want the certificates to be enforced for those wanting to work out while only 43 per cent say they should be needed at medical centres.

Over half – nearly six in ten – said they would support the plans and more than a quarter – 28 per cent – said they would strongly back the idea.

But 34 per cent of the country said they were against the idea of using the system as the country edges closer to freedom on June 21.

A separate poll for MailOnline found 59 per cent of people would back and 19 per cent would oppose businesses such as pubs using vaccine passports.

Police will NOT stop or arrest people leaving the country in breach of new Covid holiday ban despite £5,000 fines for rule breakers 

People leaving the country in breach of the Government’s holiday ban will not be stopped or arrested by police, a senior officer has confirmed.

Under the new coronavirus regulations coming into force on Monday, people leaving England without a valid reason could face a £5,000 fine.

National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) chairman Martin Hewitt said officers would hand out the penalties to anyone found flouting the rules to go on holiday.

However, he said barring anyone from travelling is a matter for UK Border Force, adding: ‘We are not simply going to arrest people because they are trying to leave the country.’

NPCC chairman Martin Hewitt says officers will not be making arrests

NPCC chairman Martin Hewitt says officers will not be making arrests

Mr Hewitt was speaking to reporters after the release of NPCC data showing 508 fines had been issued by forces in England and three in Wales to people failing to self-isolate after arriving from a country on the Government quarantine list up to March 14.

He said no fines had been handed out by police for breaching regulations around hotel quarantine for those entering from red countries, which came into force on February 15.

He explained enforcement was primarily a matter for Border Force and private security contractors.

So what ARE reasonable excuses to leave the UK?

  • Travelling for work, study, for legal obligations or to vote
  • For childcare reasons or to be present at a birth
  • To visit a dying relative or close friend
  • To seek medical assistance or appointments
  • To visit someone in a hospice or care home, but only if a close friend or family 
  • To attend a funeral, get married or to attend the wedding of a close relative
  • For childcare purposes 
  • For volunteer or charity work 
  • To view houses to buy or rent, to visit an estate agent or a show home, or to move house
  •  If someone does not live permanently in the UK are they are going home

Mr Hewitt said police have increased the number of officers in ports and airports, and are continuing to carry out checks of people who should be self-isolating.

He said: ‘Police will not automatically stop travellers, though officers will continue to question people about the reasons for their travel in the airport terminals or the car park or the other points of entry and exit.

‘With the new legislation in relation to travel coming into force on Monday, if officers do discover anyone who is breaching the rules, then we will issue a fine where necessary.

‘Whether people become barred from travelling is not a police issue, though, that is for UK Border Force.’

The threat of fines has been extended until the end of June, making foreign summer holidays look increasingly unlikely as a third wave of coronavirus sweeps across Europe.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is leading a taskforce that will report by April 12 on how and when the ban on non-essential travel can be lifted. It can be no sooner than May 17 under Mr Johnson’s official roadmap.

The travel ban does not apply to those going to the common travel area of the Channel Islands, Isle of Man and the Republic of Ireland unless that is not the final destination.

Earlier this week Neil Ferguson, dubbed Professor Lockdown after telling the government to impose restrictions last March, warned people could be facing another summer at home.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast he said: ‘I think we…whilst not everything will be back to normal by the summer, certainly by the autumn, it will feel a lot more normal.’

Meanwhile Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary said their passengers could be forced to wear face masks into 2022.

He said: ‘I would imagine at this point in time, we’re planning to continue to require mandatory face mask wearing on board our aircraft through the remainder of this summer schedule and next winter’s schedule.’