Succeeding the administration of vaccines and a surge in the number people infected with the Covid-19, efforts have been made to show proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test. The idea is that by providing one’s vaccinated status, one could engage more safely in activities like travelling abroad, working in setting where people are at high risk or going to crowded places such as clubs, cinema, pubs or stadium.
Covid passports have been described as ‘”vaccine passports” and “immunity certificates”, while the UK government has called them “COVID status certification”.
The proposed passport would be a health passport, or health pass, which generally refers to documents in paper or digital format, that certifies one of three things: that the holder has been vaccinated, has tested negative for the virus, or has recovered from it.
Currently, there is no widespread use of a ‘Covid-19 Vaccine Passport’ on a cross-border basis but the idea is starting to take shape as many cou tries require proof of vaccination for international travel. However, Some nations have already installed their own versions of a Covid passport which has allowed people to attend large scale events.
Most Covid passports introduced internationally are mobile phone apps that show a QR code or other evidence confirming vaccination status. Some have also incorporated testing, to minimise discrimination against those who have not been, or cannot be vaccinated.
The countries that first implemented Covid passports, Israel and Denmark, have both now started to phase them out, although Israel may revive its scheme.
Israel introduced the ‘Green Pass’, enabling vaccinated citizens to use leisure facilities like gyms and hotels, in February 2021 while Denmark introduced the ‘coronapas’ in April 2021.
It allows entry to venues like hairdressers and bars for vaccinated residents or those with a recent negative test result. It is incorporated into a pre-existing health app and can also be printed out.
Other countries that have adapted vaccine passports are: United Kingdom, France, China, United State, Australia, Thailand, China, South Korea, Japan and all 27 member nations of the European Union.
One of the potential benefits of the Covid passport is its ability speed up the return to normal life and increase economic activity with a reduced risk of virus transmission. Services and businesses that are less able to operate under social distancing measures would benefit, as would other sectors such as travel and leisure. The IATA have argued that Covid passports could be key in reviving the travel and tourism sectors.
Despite the intended goodwill, the Covid-19 vaccine passport is still a controversial issue in many quarters. Digital health certificates have raised up concerns over how secure one’s data will be with third-party apps communicating with databases containing sensitive health information.
Also, the World Health Organization said it is against requiring proof of a vaccine to enter another country “given the limited (although growing) evidence about the performance of vaccines in reducing transmission and the persistent inequity in the global vaccine distribution.”
Nonetheless, covid passports are viewed as key in reviving the travel and tourism sectors as more countries are opening up their borders for vaccinated travellers.