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Saturday, Jul 24, 2021

Controversy as EU considers vaccine passports in time for summer travel

Controversy as EU considers vaccine passports in time for summer travel

The European Commission will present a proposal in March on creating an EU-wide digital Covid-19 vaccination passport that may allow Europeans to travel more freely over the peak summer holiday period. Some member states have expressed concern.

Commission president Ursula von der Leyen announced the legislative proposal in a speech to German conservative lawmakers on Monday, providing a few more details in subsequent tweets.

Vaccination passport

The “digital green pass” would provide proof that a person has been vaccinated, and coulkd also include results of tests for those not yet vaccinated and information on recovery for people who have contracted Covid-19.

“The aim is to gradually enable them to move safely in the European Union or abroad - for work or tourism,” the Commission president said in a tweet.

EU leaders agreed last week to work on vaccine certificates, for which southern countries such as Spain and Greece are pushing, to enable them to relaunch their tourist sectors this summer.

However, a number of countries say it will first need to be established that vaccinated people cannot transmit the virus to others. Some countries, such as France and Belgium, also expressed concern that easing travel only for inoculated people would be unfair.

The Commission said it would seek to avoid discrimination against citizens who have not received a vaccine.

EU countries agreed in January on the basic data requirements of a vaccination certificate. A Commission spokesman said the EU executive would seek to coordinate on security standards and help connect the national health systems.

Digital vaccine certificate

Separately, in a meeting with German MEPs and MPs, Von der Leyen said the EU executive would "in coming months" seek to create a technical base for the digital certificate to ensure it is accepted across all 27 member countries.

Von der Leyen said after an EU video summit last week on the issue that the vaccine certificate could be launched in three months' time, and would respect data protection standards.

The "green pass" term she used is the same employed by Israel -- the world's vaccination champion -- for a digital or paper document proving the bearer has been inoculated and can therefore enter entertainment, sporting and dining venues.

There is debate in the EU, however, over how such a European green pass might be used.

Tourist-dependent countries, such as Greece, and airline lobby groups want the document to serve as a "vaccine passport", allowing immunised people to avoid tests or quarantine when travelling.

But most EU countries, led by France and Germany, believe such a move would be premature.

They fear vaccine passports would create a two-tier society where inoculated people enjoy a restriction-free life while the majority, waiting for their jab, continue to have their activities curtailed.


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