Covid Scotland: Vaccine passport app in development for foreign travel

The Scottish Government is in the process of developing a vaccine passport app that will initially be used for Scots to use for foreign travel to countries which require proof of vaccination status.

The confirmation comes amid concerns individuals may have received incompatible codes following a positive PCR test, meaning they could not input the code into the Protect Scotland app and inform potential close contacts of the need to self-isolate.

Larry Breen, the chief commercial officer of NearForm, the Ireland-based developer that created the Protect Scotland contact tracing app, told BBC Scotland’s Lunchtime Live that development was ongoing.

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He said: "What we are looking to do is provide proof of people’s vaccination, proof of their recovery, or proof that they’ve had a valid test that obviously shows they have got a level of protection for travelling round.

The Protect Scotland app from NHS Scotland is visible on a phone at the Kelpies in Falkirk, Central Scotland

“It is something that obviously needs to be done for the greater good and obviously it needs to get people’s confidence in the actual right way to go forward with it.”

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It is understood no decision has been made in Scotland around extending the use of this app to everyday activities such as clubbing or going to a restaurant.

However, the confirmation comes amid concerns about Scotland’s existing Covid-19 app, with just 2,562 people being ‘pinged’ by the app between July 12 and 19 despite more than 16,000 positive cases in the same time period.

The Scotsman has seen evidence of people receiving a code that is only compatible with the English contact tracing app, despite having been tested in Scotland.

Another member of the same household later also tested positive, but received the correct code for the Protect Scotland app.

If the issue is widespread, it could mean positive tests are going unreported through the contact tracing app, leading to fewer overall ‘pings’ to inform people they need to self-isolate.

NHS National Services Scotland said individuals being sent the English version of their positive test code was not a known issue, indicating the problem may not be widespread.

A spokesperson said: “If you test positive in Scotland, you will be sent a code for the Scottish app.

"If you have also received a code from NHS England, that can be ignored and the code issued by Test and Protect can be input into the Protect Scotland app.”

Scottish Labour’s shadow Scottish secretary Ian Murray said the issue “must be looked into urgently”.

He said: “Contact tracing is crucial to keeping the virus under control, but it seems the government can’t even get the basics right even after all this time.

“We have seen corners being cut across Test and Protect, while times collapse below the WHO [World Health Organisation] standard – now it seems we can’t even count on something as straightforward as access to the right app.

“This must be looked into urgently so we can understand what went wrong and how widespread the problem is.”

Annie Wells, the Scottish Conservatives’ health spokesperson, said the reports were “worrying”.

She said: “It is worrying to hear of reports that potential positive cases might not be able to ensure their close contacts will be aware they need to self-isolate.

“SNP ministers should quickly get on top of this situation and investigate to see if this is a common problem. We cannot run the risk of the virus spreading further due to potential anomalies within Test and Protect.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “As of July 21, 2021 the total number of people who have downloaded the Protect Scotland app is 2,078,512 with the number of contact notifications at 59,875.

"We’re confident the app is working effectively – and it is playing an essential role in the Test and Protect system to help suppress virus transmission. The number of alerts are in line with our expectations given the number of people who have downloaded the app and the number of positive cases.

“Updates to improve the app still further are made whenever possible based on feedback from officials and app users. We are not aware of any current issues. However, we are looking into whether people may have received incorrect codes and if any remedy is required.

“We would encourage everyone to continue to use the app and upload test results to help us protect people and help ease restrictions.”

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