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More chaos for holidaymakers after NHS Covid vaccine pass app crashed for four hours

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The NHS app did not allow everyone to view their Covid vaccine passes for almost four hours today, leaving holidaymakers unable to board flights. 

In yet more travel chaos, the controversial software — which allows people to prove their vaccination status — was not displaying QR code passes because of ‘high traffic volumes’.

Users of the app started suffering issues at 11.45am because of a ‘technical issue with a global service provider’, NHS Digital said. The app started working again shortly after 3.15pm.

Meanwhile, desperate people travelling abroad claim they have been forced to miss their flights. 

One person claimed he was ‘stuck’ in Greece because he wasn’t allowed to board a journey back to England from Greece without the QR code. Another Brit currently in Naples said he wasn’t even able to ‘go for a p*** because the app is broken’.

Others have been left fretting about their upcoming holiday plans, with them unable to fill out passenger locator forms for flights today and tomorrow. 

The app problems are the latest in a string of issues faced by travellers this summer, with queues of up to four hours building up at Heathrow’s arrivals last week because of e-gates crashing at the airport.

Ministers rolled out the UK’s new simplified travel system out on Monday last week, replacing the traffic light rules with a single go/no go system.   

Fully-vaccinated travellers returning from a country that isn’t on the red list do not have to take a pre-departure test and are exempt from quarantine but they do have to take a day two test.  

The NHS app is not allowing people to view their Covid vaccine passes as holidaymakers are left unable to board flights

HOW CAN YOU PROVE YOUR VACCINATION STATUS IF THE NHS APP IS DOWN? 

The NHS app can hold your Covid vaccination record if you choose and will generate a pass for travel abroad with a QR code when requested.

When the app experiences problems like this, it is not possible to download this QR code, which is needed to prove vaccination status on passenger locator forms and to board planes.

Travellers can download a PDF version of the code before their flight and print it out or ask their GP for a letter that can be used in its place.

But neither of these options were available to people stuck at airports today.

The app also shows the date of when people received their vaccines even without the pass.

But this cannot be used in place of the QR code on passenger locator forms.

Users trying to log on to the NHS app to download their vaccine pass today were met with a message telling them to ‘try again later’.

It says: ‘The NHS Covid-19 Status service is experiencing very high traffic volumes.

‘We are currently limit access to the service to prevent it from becoming overloaded.

‘Please try again later.’  

Health bosses have not yet reported what caused the app to be unable to process traffic levels. 

NHS Digital said: ‘The NHS Covid Pass service was temporarily unavailable between 11.45am and 3.15pm today as a result of a technical issue with a global service provider that affected many different organisations.

‘Following an urgent investigation, this has been fixed and Covid Passes are available both via the NHS App and online.’

Swarms of Brits trying to get abroad in the coming days spent hours trying to get on to the app to access their Covid pass.

Mike Dalgetty told MailOnline: ‘We are flying to Alicante next week. I’ve tried all day to use app. It won’t allow us to register our identity. 

‘Says my driving licence isn’t acceptable then it won’t accept my face recognition. 

‘Luckily we have the older printed double vaccine letters.

‘It’s just a joke and not fit for purpose utter waste of time.’

Chuck Adolphy said it was a ‘shambles’ as he tried to fly on a ‘dream holiday’ with his girlfriend on Wednesday morning, from Gatwick to Slovenia’s capital Ljubljana, before being turned away.

‘Went to go on the app and my Covid Pass wasn’t appearing,’ he said.

‘Didn’t even realise at the time there was an outage was just turned away and told they couldn’t do anything about it.

‘Rang the number and they said the app and site are down and there is nothing they can do. EasyJet said nothing either. Showed them my vaccine card and nothing.’

Britons took to social media to report the problem, with hundreds saying they were worried about being able to travel.

Caroline Frost, a journalist, wrote : ‘Waiting to fly at Heathrow and the NHS app has crashed with all the a Covid vaccination proof available. 

‘Currently not allowed to fly. Going to be an interesting afternoon at Heathrow.’ 

Passengers queue for the Arrival Hall at London Heathrow Airport's Terminal 5 last week, due to a problem with the self-service passport gates

Passengers queue for the Arrival Hall at London Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 5 last week, due to a problem with the self-service passport gates

Passengers posted images of massive queues on Twitter on Wednesday last week, with one traveller estimated than more than a thousand people waited at immigration while another reported an expected waiting time of anywhere between two and four hours

Passengers posted images of massive queues on Twitter on Wednesday last week, with one traveller estimated than more than a thousand people waited at immigration while another reported an expected waiting time of anywhere between two and four hours

TRAVEL RULES MEAN UK IS ONE OF WORLD’S ‘WORST-PERFORMING COUNTRIES’ FOR TOURISM 

Coronavirus travel restrictions are affecting UK tourism more than most countries across the world, new figures show.

Spending by international visitors to the UK is forecast to plunge by nearly 50 per cent this year compared with 2020, the London-based World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) said.

This is making the UK ‘one of the worst performing countries in the world’, according to the organisation.

The WTTC noted that the travel and tourism sector’s contribution to the UK’s economy may rise year on year by about 32 per cent in 2021, which is broadly in line with the rest of the global average.

But that partial recovery is being driven by the boom in domestic holidays, which is not enough to achieve a full economic recovery and save millions of jobs under threat, the WTTC said.

An estimated 307,000 jobs in the sector were lost last year due to the pandemic.

The WTTC said the UK’s ‘destructive’ testing and quarantine policies mean it is lagging behind other countries such as the US and China, which are ‘set to see a rise in inbound international travel spending this year’.

Julia Simpson, WTTC president and chief executive, said: ‘WTTC research shows that while the global travel and tourism sector is beginning to recover, the UK continues to suffer big losses due to continuing travel restrictions that are tougher than the rest of Europe.

‘Despite government announcements, the UK still has a red list, costly PCR tests and a requirement for day-two tests which simply put people off travel.

‘Just as the world opens up, the UK has more requirements for the double vaccinated than our neighbours.’ 

Others stuck abroad say they were also experiencing issues because of the glitch.

Henry Martin said: ‘This has been an absolute nightmare. We’re stuck here in Greece as they wouldn’t let us on plane without a pass — are you going to reimburse us for the missed flights and hotel? 

‘Of course there was no one we could contact about this also.’

Callum Mellia said: ‘Cheers guys, can’t do anything in Naples right now such as tours, museums, go for a p**s because the app is broken.’ 

Guy Holloway, who is moving to Barcelona tomorrow, said: ‘The NHS App won’t give me my Covid pass and I can’t therefore upload proof of vaccination to booking form. 

‘Keeps saying “unexpected error” both in app and online. What can I do? Am travelling on Friday!’

And Simon Hutton wrote: ‘Am I the only one having issues getting a Covid pass on the NHS app or website? 

‘Try to get one and it just says there are four ways to get a pass but no option to actually generate one.’

Worried travellers have been reassured they can bring ‘proof of vaccination status’ to their flight even without the app.

Tweeting to a customer, British Airways said: ‘Please contact the NHS to see if they can remedy the issue with their app. If not be reassured you can bring proof of vaccination status when you check in.’

Travellers can download their pass or ask for a physical copy from their GP before travel to prove their vaccination status.

But it is not clear how travellers already at airports can continue with their plans until the app returns. 

Users can still access their Covid vaccine records through a sub-section of the app, proving they’ve had two jabs. But there is no guarantee airlines or other countries will accept it as proof. 

Critics have campaigned against the digital passes since before they were first introduced, arguing vaccine history should be kept private. 

It comes after Heathrow’s e-gates crashed again last week leaving travellers stuck on planes for hours and waiting in long queues at arrivals.

One traveller estimated that more than a thousand people were waiting at immigration while another reported an expected waiting time of anywhere between two and four hours.

A Heathrow spokesman told MailOnline that the e-gates broke down due to a ‘national systems-wide issue’ but that they are all back up and running. The airport even appeared to be blaming Border Force, which manages e-gates at ports across the country, for the chaos.

Self-service passport gates at several major UK airports including Heathrow, Manchester, Stansted and Edinburgh all failed just over a fortnight ago, causing delays of several hours at arrivals. At the time, officials said the outage was caused by a ‘systems failure’. 

A Home Office spokesman refused to explain why the e-gates keep crashing when approached by MailOnline for further information, saying it does not comment on ‘operational matters’. 

They said in a statement: ‘This morning a technical issue affected e-gates at a number of ports. The issue was quickly identified and has now been resolved. 

‘We have been working hard to minimise disruption and continue to monitor the situation closely. We apologise to all passengers for the inconvenience caused.’ 

Tory MPs have demanded answers from the head of Border Force over the Heathrow queuing scandal seen in recent months but Paul Lincoln, the agency’s director general, has not commented publicly on the issue in recent weeks. 

Travel industry experts have repeatedly warned the chaotic scenes seen in the wake of the country reopening are blighting the UK’s global reputation, while running the risk of a spike in Covid cases – further jeopardising the already crisis-hit tourism sector.

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