England’s COVID pass system went offline for hours on Wednesday, leaving British travelers stranded at airports. Some passengers could not board their flights, while others faced delays because of problems with both the National Health Service (NHS) website and app.
delayed and missed flights
An NHS system outage lasting nearly four hours left many British passengers unable to access their vaccination records and present their COVID passes to airlines. Most airlines in the UK require proof of vaccination in printed or digital form, before passengers can board. But those without paper copies were left in limbo as errors continued to occur in the NHS smartphone app.
Journalist Caroline Frost, who has been vaccinated, is one of many passengers who had a hard time getting to the airport:
Waiting to fly into Heathrow and the NHS app has crashed with all the COVID vaccination proof available. Currently flying is not allowed. Going to be an interesting afternoon at Heathrow.
— Caroline Frost (@FrostReporter) 13 October 2021
Although the NHS issued a statement about “issues with accessing COVID passes”, it did not specify the exact cause of the outage.
There are currently issues with accessing Covid passes on the NHS app and website. We are investigating this issue and will update as soon as possible.
— NHS Digital (@NHSDigital) 13 October 2021
This is not the first time the UK government’s digital COVID vaccine passport has been in trouble. Earlier this month, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon accepted It said there were temporary problems with the app, “specifically, several people found that the app was unable to locate their vaccination records from the information they provided.”
The problem was not with the app itself, but with the centralized NHS system to which it links, Sturgeon explained. “Essentially, the high level of demand following the launch of the app – combined with an error in one part of the NHS system – meant that information was not being sent from the NHS system to the app quickly enough. Also, a period, created problems for those seeking to request paper copies of vaccination certificates or download PDFs.”
In July, Northern Ireland’s Vaccine Passport Service experienced a data leak, exposing users’ personal information and forcing the Northern Ireland Department of Health to take the service temporarily offline.
While digital vaccine passports provide convenience, they are not protected from network outages, data leaks and cyberattacks – all obstacles that need attention as the use of digital vaccine passports grows. It’s a good idea to carry a paper copy of your vaccination proof when traveling – at the very least, it can save you time in case of an outage.