Covid passports: How do I get one and when will I need it?

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People in Northern Ireland will soon need a Covid passport for entry to a range of venues and event.

It follows similar schemes in Wales and Scotland - although Scotland has now decided not to expand the number of places where a pass is needed.

What's happening in Northern Ireland?

The vaccination passport scheme is expected to begin on 29 November, with a 14-day grace period until 13 December before fixed penalty notices will be issued.

It is understood the measure will apply to:

  • nightclubs
  • hospitality venues which serve food and drink
  • cinemas, theatres, concert halls and conference centres
  • indoor events with 500 or more attendees with some or all of the audience not normally seated
  • outdoor events with 4,000 or more attendees with some or all of the audience not normally seated
  • events where more than 10,000 people will be present regardless of whether they are seated

People can either show proof of vaccination, a negative lateral flow test taken in the previous 48 hours, or a positive PCR test taken in the previous 30-180 days.

Northern Ireland's health department has already updated its COVIDCert NI app - which shows proof of vaccination - to include a certificate for "domestic use".

How do Covid passports work in Scotland?

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has decided not to extend the Scottish scheme to include more venues. She had been considering adding cinemas, theatres and other hospitality venues, but told MSPs that falling cases mean it would "not be proportionate".

However, from 6 December people will be allowed to present a negative test rather than proof of vaccination to enter venues that are already part of the scheme.

Currently, over-18s need to prove they've been fully vaccinated to enter:

  • nightclubs
  • adult entertainment venues
  • indoor events with more than 500 people
  • unseated outdoor events with more than 4,000 people
  • any event with more than 10,000 people
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Image caption,
The scheme covers sporting venues which have a capacity of more than 10,000, including Hampden Park

People can use the NHS Scotland Covid Status App to show proof, the NHS App (if from England or Wales) or Covidcert NI app (if from Northern Ireland), or else print off a paper version.

Under-18s are exempt, as are vaccine trial participants, and those who can't be vaccinated for medical reasons.

How do Covid passports work in Wales?

People now need to show their NHS Covid Pass to gain entry to:

  • cinemas, theatres and concert halls
  • nightclubs and comparable venues
  • unseated indoor live events for more than 500 people
  • unseated outdoor live events for more than 4,000 people
  • any event for more than 10,000 people

Over-16s who have been fully vaccinated in Wales or England can use the pass to prove their status, but it's only compulsory for over-18s.

It's also available to people who've had a negative lateral flow test in the previous 48 hours.

What happened to Covid passport plans in England?

Earlier this year, the government dropped a plan for an English vaccine passport.

However, people from England can use their NHS Covid Pass as a vaccine passport in other parts of the UK, because it contains records of vaccination (including boosters) and/or previous positive tests.

You can get the pass if you're 18 or over, registered with a GP, and meet any one of the following criteria:

  • it's been two weeks since your second vaccination (or single Jansen dose)
  • you've had a negative PCR or lateral flow test result in the past 48 hours, and reported it on the NHS website (this pass lasts for 48 hours after the result)
  • you've had a positive PCR test result in the past six months, and finished self-isolating (this pass lasts for 180 days)

Over-16s can also get the NHS Covid Pass for foreign travel if:

  • you've had two vaccine doses (or one Jansen jab)
  • you've had a positive PCR test result in the past six months, and finished self-isolating (this pass lasts for 180 days)

If you don't have a GP, or a mobile device, you can access the pass via the NHS website or by calling 119 to request a letter. The letter only shows your vaccination status (not test results) and has no expiry date.

Image source, Getty Images

What about travel?

Many foreign countries insist that visitors are fully vaccinated as an entry requirement. Others will waive quarantine restrictions if you can prove your status.

In some places you may also have to demonstrate that you've had both Covid jabs in order to attend large events, go to bars and restaurants or use public transport.

The EU will accept the official proof of vaccination status from all four UK nations. If you're from Northern Ireland and hold an Irish passport, you can also apply for an EU Covid Certificate.

You should check the rules for your destination before you travel, and can find these on the Foreign Office's travel advice website.