The EU Is Working on a Digital Vaccine Passport
With Covid-19 vaccinations beginning to roll out around the world, it's only a matter of time before travel can begin to slowly resume. And, pending local and regional government restrictions and roadmaps, plenty of people have already started to take to social media to talk about the #vaccications they're planning for mid- to late-2021.
Here in the UK, where I've been parked since mid-December, the prime minister announced an irreversible roadmap out of lockdown for the spring, beginning with schools reopening in early March; followed by non-essential retail opening in April; indoor entertainment venues, hotels, and small events will be OK from mid-May; and a return to as-much-normal-as-possible by June 21.
With opportunities for international travel just around the corner (OK, three-and-a-half months away, but it's so close!), Ursula von der Leyen, president of the EU Commission, announced today via Twitter that the EU will put forward legislation proposing what they're calling a "Digital Green Pass" that will act as a vaccine passport. It would serve as proof that the bearer has been vaccinated and/or provide certified testing results for the bearer if they have not yet had a vaccine.
According to a report in The Times, the Digital Green Pass will be put forward on March 17 and the scheme will be available to the United Kingdom.
"As I understand it, the EU proposal is that certification includes both whether you’ve had the vaccine and also whether you’ve recently had a test for those who can’t get vaccinated yet, which is obviously particularly important," UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said in a press conference.
Earlier this year, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced it had developed an IATA Travel Pass digital health passport that it has launched in partnership this year with Etihad and Emirates airlines. The IATA pass gathers travel requirements from registries for regulatory entry requirements as well as labs and testing centres, verified certificate issuance, and digital identity. The digital passport will allow passengers to share certified, official test results via their smartphones at checkpoints along their travel route.
"Being one of the first airlines globally working with IATA as a pioneer partner on the IATA Travel Pass is a big step forward for Etihad’s guests and for the industry," said Mohammad Al Bulooki, Chief Operating Officer, Etihad Aviation Group, in a statement. "Covid-19 tests and vaccinations will be key to get the world flying again. Since 1 August 2020, Etihad is the only airline requiring a pre-departure negative PCR test result for all passengers worldwide, and again on arrival in Abu Dhabi, giving our guests the added assurance of safety when they travel with us. A high priority for Etihad is for our guests to have an easy, secure and efficient way to identify and verify their information."
Beginning in April, Emirates passengers departing from Dubai will be able to use the IATA travel pass to share their Covid-19 PCR test results directly with the airline prior to arriving at the airport.
"While international travel remains as safe as ever, there are new protocols and travel requirements with the current global pandemic," Adel Al Redha Emirates’ Chief Operating Officer said in a statement. "We have worked with IATA on this innovative solution to simplify and digitally transmit the information that is required by countries and governments into our airline systems, in a secure and efficient manner. We are proud to be one of the first airlines in the world to pilot this initiative, which will provide an enhanced customer experience and conveniently facilitate our customers’ travel needs."