Vaccine passports on Europe table to protect summer tourism

Published on : Monday, March 8, 2021

As Europe’s summer holiday season approaches, some top destinations such as Greece and Spain are pushing the European Union to introduce digital “vaccine passports” to ease entry for visitors — and their tourism cash.

But what some countries see as a path toward reopening has been viewed by others, led by France and Germany, as a path toward a two-tier system that could leave the unvaccinated as outsiders in places such as gyms, restaurants and cinemas.

“Immunity passports could reinforce inequalities both within and between countries,” said Emilian Kavalski, a professor at the University of Nottingham’s campus in Ningbo, China.

In Britain, now outside the E.U., Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said vaccine certificates are “under consideration” even as other British officials dismissed the idea. Israel recently launched digital vaccination certificates to allow access to gyms or restaurants.

Israel also agreed to trial a travel bubble with E.U. members Greece and Cyprus to open the door for vaccinated travellers. Meanwhile, Cyprus has also said it will begin in May to welcome vaccinated visitors from Britain.
What you need to know about vaccine passports

The European Commission is expected to submit a proposal on how to bridge the divides with the bloc this month, which could lay out a joint plan for digital vaccination certificates that would work across the E.U. and potentially beyond.

Compromise proposals could include exceptions for individuals who have recovered from covid-19 or those who can provide a recent negative test result.

It is unclear what a digital vaccine certificate would look like. Personalised QR codes — used in Israel and difficult to forge — would be one possible option.

But finding common ground across the E.U. will not be easy. Vaccination rates vary widely. So does the political will to put the vaccinated in the fast lane for travel — with countries most dependent on tourism cash leading the way.

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