According to CNBC, the International Air Transport Association is launching a travel pass app (IATA Travel Pass) to resuscitate international travel that will be quarantine free. Covid-related medical information will be accessible to governments and airlines who will have your current health status, in terms of Covid-19 vaccinations and results of tests. The same principle is being considered or adopted by other organisations and tech giants, like CommonPass and the World Economic Forum.
The European Union is considering introducing a “Digital Green Pass” to record an EU citizen’s vaccination status, results of any tests done if a Covid vaccination has not been done yet and recovery if an individual has contracted the virus, to promote free and safe travel within the EU. The President of the European Commission suggested that this common passport form a bridge connecting the various EU nations.
The passport would ideally consist of pertinent information relating to an individual’s Covid-19 status:
This passport will be an official document issued by a government attesting the identity and nationality of that individual and confirming, for example, that that individual has been vaccinated and poses no risk of virus transmission.
Countries like Israel, who have been leading efforts to get their populations fully vaccinated, have already a version of this vaccine passport that allows vaccinated individuals to have access domestically to public spaces like restaurants, gyms and large gatherings.
Israel and Greece have signed an agreement on the 8th February to implement this Covid pass in order to ease and encourage travel between these two countries. Individuals from either country holding this pass will be able to travel between Israel and Greece freely once normal travel resumes. Israel is also in discussions with Cyprus to include this Mediterranean country into the agreement.
Countries like Spain, Malta, Portugal and Greece depend largely on tourism for their economies. Greece is hopeful that other EU countries will soon join the common vaccine passport agreement to boost Greek travel and tourism which has taken a brutal beating from the Covid-19 pandemic.
France and Germany initially disagreed with the idea of a common passport but are quickly recognising the advantages of having a single document which allows EU citizens to travel freely within the EU.
France in particular held the stance that giving some individuals more rights than others who have not yet had the vaccination, for whatever reason, was unfair. But when considering the new summer season of travel fast approaching they readjusted their view to saying they are willing to look at all options once more answers are available with regards to the safety of the vaccine and how widely it covers immunity to the Covid virus. French authorities are more fixated on the idea that vaccines help boost the economy domestically (allowing shops and restaurants to open for instance) rather than attracting overseas travellers.
Belgium and Hungary are also open to the idea of a unified vaccine passport. However, Denmark, Sweden, Poland and Estonia are exploring other options for their citizens who wish to travel abroad.
Countries like Bahrain and Saudi Arabia issue a health pass on an app for individuals who have been inoculated against the Covid-19 virus. This app with the updated health status has to be produced when travelling between the two countries.
The idea of a vaccine passport is not a new one. The World Health Organisation devised a “yellow book” for the vaccinations required for travel to various African countries, like yellow fever, and some ethics experts see no problems with the concept of a Covid-19 vaccine passport. Others, however, disagree citing many welfare and social conditions that have to be taken into account to be fair to everyone.
Why are some countries very reluctant to enter into any common vaccine passport agreement when it looks like it could be that answer to all of the global travel restriction woes? Some of the questionable ethical issues that may arise are:
The vaccine passport is a very controversial issue raising many more questions than providing answers. It is possible the only feasible solution is to implement the passport for a limited time within very restricted boundaries until the Covid-19 virus and all of its variants are under control with a safe degree of global herd immunity. The pandemic will not be eradicated overnight so it is important to find a long term "passport" solution that works for everyone and not just an elite few.
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