Vaccine passports may save Europe’s summer, but only for the lucky ones
(CNN) – The door to summer is slowly creaking open in Europe, and for those looking to stroll through the door for vacation amid ongoing Covid restrictions, the key could soon be at hand.
While borders are likely to remain closed in the coming weeks, the European Union is proposing to introduce a digital green certificate or vaccination pass that allows anti-Covid drugs approved for those with the necessary weapons or antibodies that the virus had to move around freely. Negative tests could also be used to qualify.
This is a measure that is eagerly awaited by major tourist destinations in Europe, including Portugal, Spain and Greece, where the absence of visitors over the past year has created gaps in national bank balances.
But will it be fair?
While the beleaguered tourism industry is delighted with the plan, which the EU is expected to vote on in March, there are fears that inconsistent vaccinations and deliveries across Europe could mean that some countries enjoy more freedoms than others.
Likewise, some populations aiming for early vaccination may be forced to stay home and watch with jealousy as senior citizens, many of whom received both thrusts before the end of spring, cum for their time in the sun.
While the EU’s executive body, the European Commission, is only using its new green certificate as a document to allow its citizens a smooth transit across European borders, concerns have been expressed that it is also required for entry into restaurants, bars or other venues will be events.
While the newly Brexited UK won’t be part of the program, the success of its vaccination program could lead to special travel agreements being signed with some EU countries that allow the British to bypass the need for certification.
Those EU citizens who cannot yet qualify for a vaccination or who cannot qualify could be excluded from the return to normal that most of us would like to see unless they undergo frequent testing plans.
A harbinger of this can already be seen at sea. Some major cruise lines advertise summer departures that are only open to passengers who can show they have a full supply of vaccines.
Anger, some commentators say, is inevitable.
“Only those over 50 will be vaccinated by the summer, so there may well be protests from younger people,” said Kaye McIntosh, former editor of Health Which? and WI Life, tells CNN Travel. “It reinforces the sense of generational injustice caused by austerity, house prices, and student loans. I wouldn’t blame Gen Z for being angry.”
Norbert Hidi, a 24-year-old student from the Hungarian capital Budapest, is among those who don’t expect to go anywhere.
“To be very clear, it’s not fair,” Hidi told CNN Travel. “Most of us won’t be vaccinated by the summer, which means we won’t be able to travel or possibly go to bars or restaurants. The older generation got the vaccines first because they’re most at risk, but that shouldn’t mean you therefore have more rights. “
Brian Young, managing director of G Adventures headquartered in the UK, a travel company that offers a range of options including tours for 18-30 year olds, is confident that vaccination records will help revitalize tourism around the world, even if some of them do Year will not be there.
“With international travel almost completely anchored for a year now, it’s important that governments work together to find a unified solution to opening borders and allowing vacationers to fly again,” Young told CNN Travel.
“The vaccine announcement has sparked confidence in the well over 1950s, and while vaccination passport proposals would be a good solution as evidence for those who received the vaccine, a large chunk of travelers remain who have not or have not taken it still need to get the vaccine, revealed. “
Denmark will be the first nation in the world to issue a “coronavirus passport” for international travel later this month. The idea of immunity passports has been discussed in European countries since the beginning of the pandemic. However, critics warn that such passports could be discriminatory and could compromise people’s right to keep their medical information private. CNN’s Nina Dos Santos reports.
Young says the EU’s decision to allow unvaccinated individuals to qualify for health passports with a negative antigen test will help, but could still be a barrier to travel for some.
“Introducing cheaper testing options is also important if the cost is to be borne by the consumer,” he says. “The current cost of PCR testing will put some travelers off, especially if they have to do multiple tests while traveling.”
If the EU digital green certificate is approved as planned, it will be valid in all EU member states as well as in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. A QR code with a digital signature is used to protect against counterfeiting. It is issued by hospitals, test centers or health authorities, but the data should be verifiable across the EU via a digital gateway.
The EU says certificates are issued for approved vaccines. Individuals vaccinated prior to the availability of the certificate or outside the EU should continue to qualify. It is to be hoped that the certificates will also be valid in countries outside the EU.
It seems like a golden ticket, but in reality, many European nations may be far from exhibiting on a large scale. Covid rates are entering their third wave across the continent, leading to new lockdowns in countries like France and Italy. Ongoing disputes over vaccine supplies and suspicions about the safety of the AstraZeneca sting – which regulators believe are unfounded – have hampered vaccination rates, which are already well below those of avant-garde vaccines like the UK and Israel.
In Hungary, where the vaccination rate is above the EU average, officials believe that the Commission’s time should better be spent on getting vaccines for the whole bloc.
“We see the debate on the certificate as a fake debate because no one expects certificates from Brussels; we expect vaccines from Brussels,” said Gergely Gulyás, the minister who heads the Hungarian Prime Minister, on Thursday. “It would be desirable if Brussels would shift the focus of its activities to this area.”
The certification plan must be supported by all 27 member states if it is to be adopted next week and launched in June. Faced with concerns from countries like Belgium and Germany that this could lead to discrimination, EU leaders have tried to build confidence.
“We propose a common EU approach that will guide us towards our goal of reopening the EU in a safe, sustainable and predictable way,” said Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, this week.
“The situation with the virus in Europe is still very challenging and trust in the decisions taken is of vital importance. Only through a common approach can we safely return to unrestricted freedom of movement in the EU, based on transparent measures and full mutual trust.”
The World Health Organization, which has also raised serious concerns about the risk of vaccination records creating a two-tier society, this week proposed its own “Smart Digital Certificate” which it refused to insist on.
“This is different from a passport,” said WHO European Director Hans Kluge on Thursday. “We’re not currently encouraging vaccination to be a decision on whether or not you can travel internationally. It shouldn’t be a requirement.”
He said there were ethical, practical, and scientific reasons for doing so.
“There is a global shortage of vaccines,” he said. “So that would increase inequalities, and if we have learned one thing from the Covid 19 pandemic, then people in need of protection are disproportionately affected.”
He said a lack of clarity about how long immunity lasts means that certificate of vaccination is not a guarantee of fitness to travel, as is uncertainty about whether vaccination can transmit the virus.
Such concerns have not stopped some countries from advancing their own certification and passport systems.
Winner and Loser
Israel’s “Green Pass” digital vaccination certificate is used to allow venues and events to reopen.
ACK GUEZ / AFP via Getty Images
Israel, which has one of the world’s highest vaccination rates, is already using a “green pass” to open restaurants, bars, venues and events. Denmark has suggested something similar and tourism officials recently said it was important to ensure a “summer of joy”.
In the meantime, some airlines are adopting certification to ensure passengers are virus-free. Australian airline Qantas has started testing the CommonPass system that will be required for overseas travel when the Australian border reopens.
Other airlines are signing a digital passport created by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) that passengers can use to upload negative Covid test certificates for smoother passage through airports.
Amid this confusing maze of digital papers, it is possible that the power of the European Union will help make the opening of global borders uniform and clear in the near future.
But, as health expert McIntosh adds, there will likely be winners and losers, and there are no guarantees, especially not in the long run.
“The right not to be exposed to a fatal disease outweighs the rights of the unvaccinated,” she says. “Maybe that will change when vaccination eventually turns Covid-19 into something more common, like seasonal flu – although it still kills thousands of people every year.
“But no vaccine is 100% effective, so even people who have had the sting are still at risk.”
CNN’s James Frater, Sarah Dean and Sharon Braithwaite contributed to this story