The European Union has announced it will be outlining its proposal for a digital vaccine passport late this month, in time for the summer tourism season.
While EU leaders have clashed over the proposal in recent weeks, EU commission president Ursula Von der Leyen said she would put forward legislation for a ‘digital green pass’ this month according to the EuroNews,
Tourism accounts for 27 million jobs in Europe, generating around 10% of the EU’s GDP. Many countries that rely heavily on tourism, like Greece and Spain, cannot recover until the tourist industry is reopened.
Vaccines are widely seen as the solution to the global travel industry restarting. As roll-outs start to accelerate around the world, many countries are starting to think about how they can enable vaccinated citizens to travel with vaccine passports seen as one solution.
What Will The EU Vaccine Passport Look Like?
Vaccine passports have been conceptualized since the early days of the pandemic and are rapidly gaining notoriety one year in, as vaccinations start to become the norm.
Vaccine passports are a certification of vaccination, providing evidence to authorities that a traveler has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. They would potentially link official vaccination certificates, as well as COVID test results and/or documented evidence of previous recovery from COVID-19.
It is unclear what a digital vaccine certificate would look like. Personalized QR codes are one possible option as these are more difficult to forge.
Having a vaccine passport would allow travelers to bypass member states’ current restrictions, such as quarantines and testing restrictions.
Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, has said “The [pass] should facilitate Europeans’ lives. The aim is to gradually enable them to move safely in the European Union or abroad – for work or tourism.”
The vaccine passport may also apply to countries that aren’t members of the European Union. The EU Commission yesterday said it would collaborate with the World Health Organization to expand the system to non-EU nations.
When Will The EU vaccine Passport Be Rolled Out?
According to the EuroNews, it is expected that the European Commission will publish draft legislation on March 17th that will lay out the details on the format of a common EU vaccination certificate that can be accepted across the 27 member states.
The timeline for the rollout of the digital vaccine rollout will become clearer once the proposal has been officially announced. According to TimeOut, the passports are unlikely to be launched until June at the earliest.
Several countries are hoping that it will arrive in time to facilitate summer travel, which is a major contributing factor to their economies.
Controversy With The Vaccine Passport
There is a lot of controversy around the vaccine passport, with the risk of creating separate categories of people in society who are vaccinated or not.
The EU 27 member states have clashed over the proposals in recent weeks.
Many European countries who rely heavily on tourism, like Portugal and Greece, have been pushing the EU to move forward with this, while others have voiced concerns over it. Germany has been the most critical, raising the point that first it must be clear whether or not vaccinated people were no longer infectious.
One big question is whether EU member states will leave the decision-making to the European Commission or take matters into their own hands.
Several European countries have already made plans to welcome vaccinated tourists. For example, Cyprus and Portugal have said they will welcome vaccinated UK tourists from May, and Greece has said they will welcome tourists from Israel if they have a vaccine passport.
Other countries outside of the EU, like Denmark and Sweden, have already made their own plans for vaccine passports.
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