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Sunday, December 5, 2021

Confusing rules, testing and boosters – your holiday questions answered

As countries open up to travel again, the rules around entry become more complex – some travellers report being turned away by airlines for not having the correct paperwork. And on arrival at destinations, on-the-ground restrictions, including Covid health passes, present another level of complication.

Here Gill Charlton answers some of the most frequently asked questions sent to The Telegraph’s Ask the Experts over the past week.

We have paper versions of the NHS Covid Pass issued last summer. Are they still valid for travel to Europe?

No. On November 1, the UK and the EU finally agreed to enable mutual verification of Covid-19 vaccination certificates for travel – previously most of Europe accepted the NHS Covid Pass but only a few countries could scan it.

You will need to download and/or print out a new version of your NHS Covid Pass to ensure it can be scanned successfully by venues and at borders. If you do not have a smartphone or tablet you can telephone 119 in good time before your departure to obtain an updated paper copy. Be aware that certificates expire within one month of first being generated.

The EU Digital Covid Certificate (DCC) scheme has also been adopted by 20 non-EU countries including Turkey, Israel and Morocco. 

When are booster vaccinations going to be added to the digital NHS Covid Pass?

We hope this will happen in December, though Boris Johnson’s comment this week that the government is merely “making plans” to add third doses to the pass doesn’t instil confidence. From December 15, France will only accept over 65s as fully-vaccinated if they have had a booster dose. Austria, Switzerland and Croatia have also announced they will not accept visitors whose second jab was given more than 360 days ago. More countries are likely to follow, so we hope for a definite date soon.

I am hoping to travel to Europe with my children aged 12 and 15 for New Year. How can I prove their vaccination status?

You can’t. It is a problem that the government has failed to address. If your child has contracted Covid you can get a Certificate of Recovery from your GP (only some are being helpful here) or from a private clinic like Mayfield (mayfield.co.uk), which is accepted in lieu of a Covid vaccination pass by some countries. 

Children under 18 who have only had one dose of a Covid vaccine are not considered ‘fully vaccinated’ by many European countries. Scotland is already offering second doses to those aged 16 and 17 and this week it was announced England is following suit.

Entry rules for partially-vaccinated teens vary widely. They must usually be travelling with a vaccinated parent and have taken an antigen or PCR test prior to travel – this is the case in France, for example. It is essential to check the latest country-specific advice using gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice. 

Problems for teenagers don’t end at the border either. Some European countries, including Italy, now insist they take antigen tests every 48 or 72 hours to enter restaurants and bars – even ski lifts – which cost around £25 at local pharmacies.

We are flying to Munich in Germany and taking a road transfer to Austria to go skiing in December. Do we need to fill in the German entry registration form?

Not if you are travelling on to a third country within 24 hours. This exemption also applies to travellers using Geneva airport to enter France. Check-in staff are not always aware of this waiver so have copies of your transfer and accommodation reservations to hand. If you come across an intransigent jobsworth (it has happened), German border officials have confirmed that the address of Munich airport can be used to complete the form. 

How can I save my NHS Covid Pass on my smartphone, in my photos, so I can upload to my destination’s entry form?

To do this on an iPhone, in the NHS App click ‘get your NHS Covid Pass,’ select the pass for travel and download the file to your device as a pdf. You’ll be able to access this in the Files app, where you can take a screenshot to save it to your Photos. To do this press the top left and right-hand side buttons to capture the image on the screen. Tap the screenshot (scan) to open it and click Done (in the top left-hand corner) which saves it to Photos. You should also store a copy offline in your phone’s Wallet for easy access.

On Android phones the process is similar. After choosing to download the file to your device, the document will open in a new window – take a screenshot of this to save it to your Photos app – the method to do this varies depending on your device. Regardless of iPhone or Android, take a new scan each time you travel as the QR code expires after 30 days.

Entry requirements for the US say that Covid tests can be self-administered but must be done under “real-time supervision”. Is this correct and how do I do that?

Yes. Buried in the small print it says that a test conducted remotely must be done by a ‘telehealth’ provider who supervises the collection of the sample on a video link. Most testing outfits offer this service for an extra fee. If you live near a participating branch of Boots (boots.com) for example you can book an in-person test for £30, which will give you the result in 30 minutes – something of a bargain in the rip-off world of travel testing.

I’m flying to Rome with British Airways and it says that I can download the VeriFLY app to check that my documentation is compliant. Is it worth doing that?

A number of airlines have signed up with VeriFLY, which allows passengers to upload their Covid-19 travel documents ahead of time and get confirmation that they meet the destination’s requirements. This allows you to check-in online and choose your seat before arriving at the airport and can save you a lot of time in queues. Otherwise you have to submit to a document check in the terminal before getting a boarding pass. Even if you do use the app to upload your documentation digitally, do carry hard copies in case there is any issue somewhere on the journey.

Are you planning a holiday? Do you have a question about the ever-complicated Covid rules around travel? Leave your question for our experts in the form below.

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