What are Covid-19 vaccine passports and how do you get a booster jab?

What are Covid-19 vaccine passports and how do you get a booster jab?

December 15, 2021

Do you need the app to prove you are fully jabbed? What happens if you haven’t had a booster? Everything you need to know about Covid passes as new rule comes into force today

The final of Boris Johnson’s Plan B rule changes to help fight the Omicron variant came into force today as vaccine passports were introduced.

The Covid passes will be mandatory for those attending nightclubs and large venues, with proof of a negative lateral flow test also accepted for entry.

But there is fury within the Conservatives about the plans with nearly 100 Tory backbenchers defying the party whip to vote against the Government yesterday.

Meanwhile the NHS is ramping up its booster effort even further as all adults in England were offered a third jab in the race against the spread of Omicron.

Other new requirements include a rule to wear face coverings at more indoor spaces in England, and a return to guidance for people to work from home.

In addition, hotel quarantine for travellers arriving in England is now abandoned, with all 11 red list countries removed because the spread of Omicron in the UK was deemed to mean the measure to prevent cases being imported was less effective.

Here, MailOnline answers questions about the Plan B rule changes and boosters:

VACCINE PASSPORTS

What are vaccine passports?

Mandatory vaccine passports have been introduced for all people aged 18 or over when visiting certain indoor or outdoor settings from today.

This means adults visiting the likes of nightclubs, large indoor events and large sports events will need this passport to gain access.

What if you are not fully vaccinated?

Proof of a negative lateral flow test is also accepted after the Government said it had ‘considered the evidence since the emergence of Omicron’.  

Do you need to have a booster to be considered fully vaccinated? 

No. Fully vaccinated in this case means that you have had your first and second jab, although the Government has indicated this may include boosters in the future.  

Where are vaccine passports now required?

The policy is focused on settings where crowds mix and come into close contact. The Government has confirmed this includes:

  • nightclubs, dancehalls, discotheques and other late night dance venues. These are any other venues that are: open between 1am and 5am; serve alcohol during this time; have a dancefloor (or designated space for dancing); and provide music, whether live or recorded, for dancing.
  • indoor events with 500 or more unseated attendees, where those attendees are likely to stand or move around for all or part of the event, such as music venues with standing audiences or large receptions;
  • outdoor events with 4,000 or more unseated attendees, where those attendees are likely to stand or move around for all or part of the event, such as outdoor festivals; and
  • any events with 10,000 or more attendees indoor or outdoor, such as large sports and music events

A person’s NHS Covid domestic pass is displayed on a smartphone screen in the NHS App

Why were vaccine passports brought in?

The Government said vaccine passports can allow venues that have been closed for long periods since the pandemic began to remain open, and they are preferable to closing venues entirely or reimposing capacity caps or social distancing.

What settings are exempt?

The Government has said settings that are exempt from the passport requirements include communal worship, wedding ceremonies and funerals.

Exemptions also apply to free, unticketed outdoor events in public spaces, such as street parties, protests and mass participation sporting events.

What can you use as a vaccine passport – does it have to the app?

The NHS Covid Pass is accessible via the NHS App and NHS.UK. You can also obtain a printed letter by going to NHS.UK or by calling 119. 

What happened with the vote in Parliament?

Rebel Conservative MPs dealt Boris Johnson him his biggest rebellion since he became Prime Minister two-and-a-half years ago during the vote yesterday.

Nearly 100 backbenchers defied the party whip to vote against the Government yesterday, equating to nearly a third of his MPs.

They voted against the introduction of mandatory Covid passes in nightclubs and large venues, with many saying they were unhappy about the way Mr Johnson was leading the country and his party.

Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, treasurer of the 1922 Committee, said that a leadership challenge has ‘got to be on the cards’ for Mr Johnson in the new year if he did not change the way he worked with his MPs. 

What is the situation in Scotland? 

In Scotland, vaccine passports are already in force and have been since October, with people who are attending nightclubs, indoor events (unseated) with 500 or more people, outdoor events (unseated) with 4,000 or more people and any event with 10,000 or more to show they are double vaccinated before entering.

Since December 6, a negative PCR test taken within 24 hours of entry to a venue or a negative lateral flow test have also been accepted as part of the passes. Scotland’s Covid passes are called the NHS Scotland COVID Status app.

What is the situation in Wales?

In Wales, vaccine passports are in force in cinemas, theatres, concert halls as well as nightclubs and large events.

They are also needed for unseated indoor venues with more than 500 people in the audience, outdoor or indoor unseated venues with a capacity over 4,000 and any event with more than 10,000 people.

The passes can be downloaded by people who are double vaccinated or have tested negatively within 48 hours of entering the venue.

Similarly to England, Wales uses the NHS Covid Pass.

What is the situation in Northern Ireland?

Northern Ireland has followed the same rules as Wales, which have been in place since November 29. Enforcement has been applied since yesterday. 

Residents who can download Covid passes include those who are double vaccinated or have tested negatively within 48 hours of entering the venue.

In Northern Ireland, the pass is called COVIDCert NI Mobile App. 

BOOSTER JABS 

What is a booster jab?

A booster jab is the third coronavirus vaccine, and is available to those who have had their first and second doses.

Can you book a booster jab in England?

Yes, all those aged 18 and over can book from today. The programme was opened up to those at least 30 years old on Monday, but this has now been widened.  

Are there exceptions for those aged under 18?

All frontline health and social care workers have already been eligible for their booster jab, whatever their age.

Those aged 16 or 17 and with a health condition that puts them at ‘high risk’ from Covid-19 are also eligible. Those conditions include long-term lung conditions, kidney disease and diabetes – and are listed in full on the NHS website here.

How long ago do you need to have had your second jab?

You can pre-book a booster if it has been 61 days since your second dose, but the appointment dates you will be offered will be from 91 days after your second dose.

People queue for their vaccination at St Thomas’ Hospital in London this morning

What if you’ve had a positive Covid-19 test?

If you’re eligible for a booster and you’ve had a positive Covid-19 test, you need to wait 28 days before getting the booster.

This starts from the date you had symptoms, or the date of the positive test if you had no symptoms. You can cancel and rebook your jab for a later date if needed.

How do you book your booster?

You can book your booster on the NHS website by clicking here. The website will ask for your NHS number, although you do not need this to book.

You will also be asked for your date of birth and postcode, so the website can offer you a list of available appointments at a range of different centres.

You will be told whether there are morning or afternoon and evening appointments available, and can then click on an hour-time slot, and then a 10-minute slot.

You will then be sent a confirmation email with a booking reference, and can use this to manage your appointment and change the time if necessary by clicking here.

Those visiting the NHS website yesterday were put into a queue of unspecified length

Can you actually get an appointment at the moment?

Britons have been waking up in the middle of the night to book their booster jabs online as record numbers continue to try to get an appointment on the NHS website.

Those trying yesterday were put into a queue and saw a message saying: ‘You are in a queue. Lots of people are trying to book an appointment at the moment. We will tell you where you are in the queue and your estimated wait time shortly.’

In some cases Britons were then put into a queue with a specified number of people for five minutes and then asked to begin the process by inputting their NHS number.

However the website seemed to be working much better today, with people put straight into queue for five minutes. 

How many people have booked their booster so far?

More than a million people either had their booster or booked one in the 24 hours since Boris Johnson made a TV appeal to head off a ‘tidal wave’ of Omicron.

Some 513,722 people in the UK received a third shot on Monday, which was the NH’s busiest Monday ever for vaccinations since the rollout began in December last year. 

More than three million boosters and third doses of the jab have been delivered across the UK in the past week, the highest number for any seven-day period since the rollout of extra doses began.

Britons queue to receive Covid-19 boosters at St Thomas’ Hospital in London this morning

Can you put in someone’s else details in the system?

The NHS warns that inputting someone else’s details without their consent is breach of the terms of use and means you may be committing a criminal offence. There is no guidance on inputting details with someone’s consent, but this is likely to be OK.

What about walk-in sites?

Anyone who is eligible to book a Covid-19 jab online can also go to a walk-in vaccination centre and queue for their jab. You can find one by clicking here. 

Are the walk-in centres busy?

Yes. Thousands have turned up at walk-in vaccine centres up and down the UK. Long queues have been seen outside many as people tried to get their boosters.

Some people had to wait up to five hours to be seen, and others reported being turned away in parts of the country, due to the huge demand this week. 

Is there a different type of third dose to a booster?

Yes, there is a third dose for people with a severely weakened immune system. Those who are eligible for this should have received a letter from a GP or hospital specialist.

This third dose – which is different to a booster dose – is for people who had a severely weakened immune system when they received their 1st or second dose.

The NHS says that the vaccine ‘may not have given them as much protection as it can for people who did not have a severely weakened immune system’.

If you’ve had this third dose for people with a severely weakened immune system, you can have a booster dose from 91 days after your third dose.

How did the recent booster drive begin? 

Boris Johnson declared an ‘Omicron emergency’ in a TV statement on Sunday at 8pm and warned people against thinking the variant will not make them seriously ill. 

The Prime Minister then brought forward the target of offering a Covid-19 booster jab to every adult by a month. The target had previously been the end of January.

That has been brought forward to December 31, and the PM said everyone eligible aged 18 and over in England will have the chance to get their booster before 2022.

Mr Johnson also said that the UK Government will provide additional support to accelerate vaccinations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

How will the booster drive be achieved?

Mr Johnson said it will require an ‘extraordinary effort’ and thousands more volunteer vaccinators will need to be trained to hit the target.

He said the ’emergency operation’ will be assisted by deploying 42 military planning teams across every region and setting up additional vaccine sites and mobile units.

He said opening hours will be extended so that clinics are open seven days a week, with more appointments early in the morning, in the evening, and at weekends.

Will the booster drive affect other parts of the health service?

Yes. Mr Johnson said the focus on boosters and making the new target achievable will mean some other appointments will need to be postponed until the new year.

But he said that if this is not done now, then the wave of Omicron ‘could be so big that cancellations and disruptions, like the loss of cancer appointments, would be even greater next year’. 

What is known about how effective two jabs are in comparison to three?

Analysis by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has found that the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines provide ‘much lower’ levels of protection against symptomatic infection with Omicron compared with Delta.

But the UKHSA said a booster dose gives around 70 per cent to 75 per cent protection against symptomatic infection with Omicron.

How many people in the UK have Omicron – and how many jabs are needed?

The NHS will need to exceed 840,000 booster jabs per day in a bid to fight Omicron, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said earlier this week.

Downing Street did not reject a suggestion that new Omicron cases could hit a million per day next week based on a ‘valid’ estimate from the UK Health Security Agency that daily infections are currently around 200,000. 

Almost 60,000 new Covid-19 cases were reported yesterday, the highest total since January 9, driven by the surge in the highly-transmissible variant. 

With 40 per cent of the population having already received a booster, there are still an estimated 17.2million people eligible for a third jab.

To be successful this would need more than 950,000 boosters to be administered every day – including Christmas Day and Boxing Day – until the end of the year.

What is the UK Covid alert level currently set at?

On Sunday, just hours before the Prime Minister’s address to the nation, the UK Covid alert level was raised to Level 4, up from Level 3, following the rapid increase in the number of Omicron cases being recorded.

The recommendation was made to ministers by the country’s four chief medical officers and NHS England’s national medical director after advice from the UKHSA. 

TESTING AND ISOLATION

How can I pick up a lateral flow test?

You can pick up tests for free from a pharmacy or other collection point, which is the quickest way to get one for most people.

Visit the NHS website by clicking here, where you can find your local site. You can then click on ‘get a collect code’, and you are given a code to give to that centre.

How can I order a lateral flow test?

You can order a lateral flow test kit online by clicking here, although the NHS asks people to only order online if they cannot pick up a test.

Are there supply issues with lateral flow tests?

Yes, although these supply problems seem to be improving. People earlier this week found lateral flow tests are unavailable to be ordered via the Government website, but they are now back in stock.

A message on the website yesterday morning said there were no tests available for home delivery, although tests could still be collected from pharmacies.

On Monday, the UKHSA said that ‘due to exceptionally high demand, ordering lateral flow tests on gov.uk had been temporarily suspended to fulfil existing orders’.

Ministers have insisted this week that there is no issue over supply, but rather there are constraints on the delivery system for the tests.

They encouraged people to pick up testing kits from their local pharmacies. However, many people have reported that their local pharmacy is out of stock. 

Britons can pick up lateral flow tests for free from a pharmacy listed on the NHS website

When should I do a lateral flow test?

The NHS advises you should take a lateral flow tests on ‘days when you’re more likely to catch or spread Covid-19’, such as before you mix with people in crowded indoor places, or visit someone who is at higher risk of becoming seriously ill from Covid-19.

Double jabbed adults are also now being asked to take a lateral flow test every day for seven days if they come into contact with someone with Covid-19. 

When can you get a PCR test?

You can order a free PCR test kit to be sent to your home or book an appointment at a walk-in or drive-through test site, by clicking here. 

You should get one if you have any of the main three Covid-19 symptoms – either a high temperature, a new and continuous cough or you’ve lost your sense of smell or taste or they’ve changed.

The Government says that if you have no symptoms you can also get a PCR test kit if:

  • you’ve been in contact with someone who’s tested positive and you must self-isolate
  • you’ve been asked to get a test by a local council or someone from NHS Test and Trace
  • a GP or other health professional has asked you to get a test
  • you’re taking part in a government pilot project
  • you’ve been asked to get a test to confirm a positive result
  • you’ve received an unclear result and were told to get a second test
  • you need to get a test for someone you live with who has symptoms
  • you’re in the National Tactical Response Group

Are there supply issues with PCR test?

Possibly. The Government website said at 11.30am yesterday that there were no physical tests available at walk-through or drive-through tests sites anywhere in England. 

However they were all back in stock by 12pm – and there was also availability in all regions of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, according to the website.

Home tests for the general public and essential workers can be posted to your home by clicking here, and should arrive the following day. These are in stock. 

When do you have to isolate? 

New guidance which came into force yesterday says that fully vaccinated people who are in close contact with a confirmed Covid-19 case should take a rapid lateral flow test every day for a week to help slow the spread of the virus. 

People who test positive or develop symptoms are still required to isolate, as are unvaccinated people who are ‘not eligible for this new daily testing policy’.  

What were the previous recent changes to self-isolating rules?

From November 30, people identified as contacts of suspected Omicron cases were told they would have to isolate for ten days regardless of their vaccination status.

However, this has now changed and been replaced by the daily testing requirement.

What does self-isolation actually mean?

You must not go to work, school or public places – and work from home if you can. You must not go on public transport or use taxis, or go out to get food and medicine.

You must also not have visitors in your home, including friends and family – except for people providing essential care. And you should not go out to exercise.

The NHS advises people to exercise at home or in your garden, if you have one.

FACE MASKS

What changes have happened to face mask rules in recent days?

The Government has now expanded the list of settings where face masks will be required. Since last Friday, face coverings became compulsory in ‘most public indoor venues, such as cinemas, theatres and places of worship’. 

Where do you now have to wear face masks, since last Friday? 

From last Friday the public, and staff in public facing areas, have been required to wear face coverings in these settings: 

  • community centres (including village halls), youth centres, members clubs and social clubs
  • libraries and public reading rooms
  • polling stations and premises used for the counting of votes
  • places of worship
  • crematoria and burial ground chapels
  • visitor attractions and entertainment venues (museums, galleries, cinemas, indoor theatres, concert halls, cultural and heritage sites, indoor areas at aquariums, zoos and visitor farms, bingo halls, snooker and pool halls, amusement arcades, adventure activity centres, indoor sports stadiums, funfairs, indoor theme parks, casinos, skating rinks, bowling alleys, indoor play areas including soft-play areas)
  • public areas in hotels and hostels
  • indoor areas of sports stadiums

Where did you already have to wear face masks before last Friday?  

The public, and staff in public facing areas, have also been required to wear face coverings in these settings since November 30:

  • shops and supermarkets (places which offer goods or services for retail sale or hire)
  • auction houses
  • post offices, banks, building societies, high street solicitors and accountants, credit unions, short-term loan providers, savings clubs and money service businesses
  • estate and letting agents
  • premises providing personal care and beauty treatments (hair salons, barbers, nail salons, massage centres, tattoo and piercing parlours)
  • pharmacies
  • premises providing veterinary services
  • retail galleries
  • retail travel agents
  • takeaways without space for consumption of food or drink on premises
  • shopping centres (malls and indoor markets)
  • public transport (aeroplanes, trains, trams, buses, coaches and ferries), taxis and private hire vehicles
  • any car or small van during a professionally delivered driving lesson, a practical driving test, or during one of the practical tests for giving driving instruction, and in all HGV lessons and tests
  • transport hubs (airports, rail and tram stations and terminals, maritime ports and terminals, bus and coach stations and terminals)

Will face mask rules be brought in for pubs and restaurants?

No. The Government said there will be exemptions in venues where it is not practical to wear a face mask, such as when you are eating, drinking or exercising. 

For that reason, face masks will not be required in hospitality settings. 

What were the previous recent changes to face mask rules?

From November 30, face masks were made compulsory on public transport and in shops, banks and hairdressers in England – but not in pubs and restaurants.

That date marked the first time that face mask restrictions had been brought in for those settings under law since the lockdown officially ended on July 19.

Between those two dates, face masks were mandatory on the Transport for London network but only under the conditions of carriage and not under law.

This meant that until that point it was not illegal to travel on a Tube without a mask – but you could have be asked to leave if you were not wearing one.

Officials said masks were not extended to hospitality on November 30 for practical reasons, because you cannot eat or drink while wearing a mask.

TRAVEL RULES 

What has happened to the red list? 

From 4am today, hotel quarantine for travellers arriving in England was abandoned.

All 11 countries on the red list were removed because the spread of Omicron in the UK was deemed to mean the measure to prevent cases being imported was less effective. 

Which countries were on the red list until today?

Some 11 countries in Africa had been added to the UK’s travel red list because of Omicron in recent weeks – Nigeria, South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Angola, Mozambique, Malawi and Zambia. 

How have the travel rules for all Britons changed recently?

From 4am on Tuesday last week, everyone over 12 travelling to the UK needs to have taken a pre-departure test – either lateral flow or PCR – to prove they don’t have Covid-19. This test is mandatory, including for those who are vaccinated.

What if you test positive overseas?

Britons are advised to contact the British embassy or consulate for advice. You will have to abide by the quarantine rules that apply in that country. 

This will involve a period of quarantine in a government-approved hotel or facility at your expense, which could run to several hundred pounds. 

You will need to fund any medical treatment required. You can return home after testing negative, but will probably need to pay for a new flight.

What happens after you arrive home?

Returning travellers must self-isolate at home until they take a day two test. This must be a PCR test, which is booked before you travel and bought privately from a government-approved provider. You must self-isolate until you get a negative result.

What about travel insurance?

Some policies, such as those offered by the Post Office, include coronavirus cover. This will include trip cancellation and curtailment cover; overseas medical and repatriation costs.

What if you want to cancel a foreign trip?

You don’t have a legal right to a refund. But most tour operators and airlines will give you a voucher to re-book at a later date. 

What were the travel rules for red list countries?

People were told not to travel to red list countries for holidays. 

Those returning to the UK from a red list country had to take a pre-departure test and undergo a hotel quarantine for ten days, with a test at day two or eight. 

Quarantine costed £2,285 for a single adult and £1,430 for a second adult.  

What happens if you’re currently in a quarantine hotel?

Travellers currently detained in quarantine hotels will be told later today when they will be released, a senior official told the Commons Transport Committee today.

Jonathan Mogford, the senior responsible officer for the managed quarantine service at the UK Health Security Agency, was questioned about reports some people were fleeing the hotels after the red list was scrapped in England at 4am.

He said: ‘The standard practice has been that if you have started hotel quarantine you need to complete it. For this de-listing, where Omicron has moved unexpectedly fast, we want to release people early.

‘We are sorting out the arrangements for that as quickly as possible, we need to make sure we are not releasing Covid or Omicron-positive guests immediately.’ 

Have lots of people in quarantine hotels been testing positive?

There have been ‘unprecedentedly high rates’ of positive Covid cases among travellers quarantined from the red list countries, MPs were told today.

UK Health Security Agency official Jonathan Mogford told the Transport Committee: ‘The latest figures are suggesting that nearly 5 per cent of people in the hotels are positive.’

Of those, ‘at least 1 per cent are Omicron-positive but probably as much as 3 per cent’. There have been ‘roughly 5,000 guests through in this round of red listing’ – 5 per cent of that figure would mean around 250 people with Covid-19.

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