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How to download an NHS Covid Pass and where you might need to use it including inside nightclubs, concerts and theatres

From today (Wednesday) larger venues in England will begin asking visitors to prove their Covid-19 status before allowing them inside.

But how can people do this, what exactly is a Covid pass, how do you get one and where might you need to use it?

Covid passes can be displayed digitally or by letter
Covid passes can be displayed digitally or by letter

Passes and Plan B

Covid passes are being introduced after Prime Minister Boris Johnson was able to push through his Plan B restrictions on Wednesday night despite significant opposition from many Conservative MPs.

Alongside the wearing of face masks in more places than just shops, and guidance asking people to work from home where they can, is a measure now requiring people to prove they are either fully vaccinated or have recently tested negative for coronavirus.

A valid Covid-19 status is defined as having been fully vaccinated with an approved vaccine, which at the time is two doses for most adults until the booster programme is further rolled out at which point it might raise to three, or having taken a negative lateral flow or PCR test within 48 hours.

And this can be displayed either using the NHS digital app that will show your Covid vaccination status, a printed out version of your Covid pass, with an NHS letter you can apply for or by using the government-generated text or email that comes following a negative Covid-19 result should you not have had the required amount of vaccines to be defined as 'fully vaccinated'.

NHS Covid passes are required from Wednesday
NHS Covid passes are required from Wednesday

Where you'll need to prove your Covid-19 status

Nightclubs, dance halls and discos will now need to ensure everyone entering is either double jabbed or has tested negative for Covid within the last two days.

You will also be asked for a copy of your Covid pass or recent negative result if you're going into anywhere open between 1am and 5am, that serves alcohol after 1am, has a dancefloor or provides music (live or recorded) for dancing.

Music concerts will be among the events now asking for people's Covid19 status
Music concerts will be among the events now asking for people's Covid19 status

Indoor events with 500 or more attendees, where those inside are likely to stand or move around, outdoor events with 4,000 or more visitors and any events with 10,000 people or more whether indoor or outdoor – such as large sports events or music concerts and festivals – will be required to make the same checks.

And the requirement for a Covid pass proving someone's vaccination status or recent negative test won't just apply to entertainment venues, music concerts or sporting contests.

Balls, receptions, conferences, business receptions, trade shows, exhibitions, awards events or charitable auctions will also need to follow the same rules.

While making the NHS Covid pass mandatory in specific settings has been controversial, a number of large-scale events had been requesting similar documentation from ticketholders prior to the rules being enforced as part of their own efforts to contain any potential outbreaks.

Numerous theatres in London have asked ticket holders to prove they are vaccinated or free from Covid-19 since they reopened last year while last summer a number of music festival ran similar policies, among them Camp Bestival in Dorset.

Wicked is among the West End shows which has been asking ticket holders for proof of vaccination or a negative test
Wicked is among the West End shows which has been asking ticket holders for proof of vaccination or a negative test

Downloading a Covid pass

The digital NHS pass can show whether someone has had a recent negative lateral flow test or is fully vaccinated (a negative test report via text or email is also to be accepted for those not yet fully vaccinated) and can be used for domestic settings as well as those needing it for international travel.

For now, 'fully vaccinated' in the UK is defined as two doses but the government has pledged to keep this figure under review as more and more adults receive an additional booster or third dose.

Boris Johnson said: “The NHS Covid pass can still be obtained with two doses but we will keep this under review as the boosters roll out. And having taken clinical advice since the emergence of Omicron, a negative lateral flow test will also be sufficient."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson
Prime Minister Boris Johnson

You can get your NHS Covid Pass digitally by downloading the NHS App from your device's app store or via the online NHS Covid Pass service providing that you are registered with a GP in England.

It is worth noting that the app is not the same as the one used by Test and Trace services.

You will need an NHS login to use all of these services, which can either be set up when you download your NHS app – if you don't have a login already – or created by clicking here.

The work to verify your identity, in order to access your medical records including your vaccination status, can take up to 24-hours to be rubber stamped, so it is advisable to not leave accessing your pass until the day or evening that you require it before deciding to set it up.

The NHS app will display someone's Covid19 status. Image: Stock photo.
The NHS app will display someone's Covid19 status. Image: Stock photo.

As well as having a digital version of your Covid Pass, once logged in, you also have the option to download your pass and print it should you not have the technology to show it at the door of a venue using a mobile phone or other digital device.

If you cannot apply digitally or use any of the online services then you can ask the NHS for a letter to be sent to you in the post, which will show your coronavirus vaccine status. Learn more about that here.

For people showing that they are fully vaccinated – the barcode generated on the digital pass will be valid for 30 days from when you have accessed it or downloaded it as a pdf – while a Covid Pass using a negative coronavirus test will last for 48 hours.

To renew the dates on passes if your 30 days has expired you can simply log back into the NHS app and view your digital pass again and this will extend the time frame or alternatively download it again onto your device if you wish to print it out for a more up-to-date version.

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