Entrusting an mobile phone app with personal information of hundreds of thousands of users may have become a norm in the recent years. Converting such an app into a some sort of a Covid-19 document is a new step in Britain’s way out travel paralysis, brought on by the pandemic.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps revealed on Wednesday that the NHS app – currently used to book appointments – will be used as a vaccine passport by Brits for international travel.
“It will be the NHS app that is used for people when they book appointments with the NHS … to be able to show that you’ve had a vaccine or that you’ve had testing, and I’m working internationally with partners across the world, to make sure that that system can be internationally recognised,” he said.
The app will show whether a person has had a Covid-19 jab or a negative test result prior to traveling abroad.
Shapps added that he is working with partners across the world to make sure that system can be internationally recognised. The Minister plans to discuss the plan further during the meeting of G7 transport ministers next week.
More announcements are expected in the next couple of weeks, revealing the countries that made it Britain’s “green list”. Arrivals from these countries do not need to quarantine but still need to take a pre-departure test as well as a PCR test on or before day 2 of coming to England.
Simple and Secure
The NHS app is owned and run by the service, which describes it is as a “simple and secure way to access a range of NHS services on your smartphone or tablet”.
Basing international travel rules on the information provided by an app raises concerns and questions around the cybersecurity of the matter.
NHS has suffered from cyberattacks in the past, with the notably serious threat posed by the WannaCry ransomware in 2017.
WannaCry reduced the NHS temporarily to an operation run via pen and paper, threatening lives of patients in the process. The attack had triggered overwhelming disruption to British health services and almost 20,000 hospital appointments and operations had to be cancelled. Accident and emergency departments turned patients away because they were unable to treat them.
“It wasn’t all that long ago that the NHS was hacked! And the tracker app was/is full of bugs! And NHS gave all our private health data to an external company without our permission to run their GP web appointments!” a Twitter user said, in response to the announcement by Shapps.
The NHS app requires users to set up an NHS login and prove who they are. Then it “securely connects to information from your GP surgery.”
“If your device supports fingerprint detection or facial recognition, you can use it to log in to the NHS App each time, instead of using a password and security code,” the app website explains.