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NHS app will allow people to access Covid-19 passports through facial recognition

2 min read

People will be able to access their Covid-19 passports by scanning their face, under Government plans to roll out the certificates using the NHS app. 

Ministers confirmed on Thursday that the existing NHS smartphone application will be updated to allow the public to show they have had a Covid-19 vaccination or a recent test result. 

The app is currently used to book medical appointments and order repeat prescriptions and allows users to access their details by using facial verification software, similar to that used by many smartphones. 

It means people with newer models of smartphone will be able to scan their faces to show they have been vaccinated, secured a recent negative test result or recently had the virus and recovered.

Smartphone users who download the application are asked whether they want to access their details via fingerprints or facial recognition instead of a password or usual security settings.  

The Department for Health and Social Care said officials were also looking at a means of enabling people to prove their Covid status without a smartphone.   

But officials believe the NHS app provides a “simple and secure way” for people to access their NHS details.  

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps on Wednesday said the app would be used to allow holidaymakers to prove their vaccination status to travel overseas. Mr Shapps will be discussing the issue with his counterparts in the G7 next week.  

The passport is unlikely to be ready for 17 May when international travel is hoped to resume again under the Government’s roadmap.  

The news comes as vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said the Government was considering whether the so-called vaccine passports should be used to stage large events in the UK.

“If you want to go to 100 per cent seat capacity at Wembley, you have to look at all these technologies which are available to you and I think it is only right and responsible for any government to explore that,” Mr Zahawi said.

It is increasingly expected the certificates will be used domestically for such “mass events”, as well as theatres, festivals and nightclubs but not the hospitality sector.

However, Minister for the Cabinet Office, Michael Gove, refused to rule out the prospect of passports being used to enter pubs in a written ministerial statement yesterday.  

Mr Gove said Covid-19 certificates would not be required to access “essential public services, public transport and essential shops”, adding that a review into their use is ongoing.  

A Government spokesperson said: “The Government is working on providing individuals with the means to demonstrate their COVID status easily – through a digital route as well as a route for people who don’t have access to a smart phone. Security and privacy will be at the core of our approach.

“Use of the NHS App is being considered as part of the digital route.”

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