Vaccine passports may save Europe’s summer, but only for the lucky ones

(CNN) – The door to summer is slowly opening in Europe and for those who want to take a walk in the midst of ongoing Covid restrictions, the key may soon be near.

While the border is likely to remain closed in the coming weeks, the European Union is proposing to issue a digital green vaccine certificate or passport to allow those in possession of the required Covid-approved drug weapons or antibodies to the virus, to travel freely. Negative tests could also be used to qualify.

It is a measure eagerly awaited by Europe’s top tourist destinations, including Portugal, Spain and Greece, where the absence of visitors last year has left gaps in national banking balances.

But will it be fair?

While the besieged tourism industry is happy with the plan, which the EU is expected to vote on later in March, there are fears that inappropriate vaccinations and supplies across Europe could mean some countries will enjoy more freedoms than others.

Similarly, with some demographics targeting early vaccination versus others, some may be forced to stay at home, watching with jealousy as elderly citizens, many of whom will have received both piercings before the end of spring, are launched for their time in the sun.

And while the EU executive, the European Commission, envisions its new green certificate simply as a document allowing its citizens to cross the European border smoothly, concerns have been raised that they will also be required to enter restaurants, bars or other places, and events.

While the recent Brexited UK will not be part of the program, the success of its vaccination program could see special travel agreements with some EU countries that will allow the British to bypass the need for certification.

These EU citizens who are not yet eligible for vaccination – or are unable to qualify – could be neglected by returning to normalcy, most of us are willing to hug unless they are tested frequently.

General injustice

A harbinger of this can already be seen in the sea. Some major cruise companies advertise summer departures that will only be open to passengers who can prove they have a complete vaccine supplement.

Anger, some commentators say, is inevitable.

“Only those over 50 will be vaccinated by the summer, so there may be protests from younger people,” said Kaye McIntosh, former editor of the consumer magazine Health Which? and WI Life, he tells CNN Travel. “This adds to the sense of generational injustice created by austerity, housing prices and student loans. I will not accuse General Z of being angry.”

Norbert Hidi, a 24-year-old student from the Hungarian capital Budapest, is among those waiting to go nowhere.

“To put it bluntly is not fair,” Hidi told CNN Travel. “Most of us would not have been vaccinated by the summer, so that does not mean we can not travel or possibly go to bars or restaurants. The older generation had the vaccines first because they are most at risk, but it does not mean they have more rights because of that. “

Brian Young, CEO of G Adventures UK-based travel company, which offers a range of options, including excursions for 18 to 30, is sure that vaccine passports will help revitalize tourism worldwide, even if some lose this year.

“With international travel almost complete a year ago, it is important that governments work together to find a uniform solution for opening borders and allowing holidaymakers to start flying again,” Young told CNN Travel.

“The announcement of the vaccine has shown an increase in confidence over 50 and, while vaccine passport proposals would be a good solution as proof for those who have received the vaccine, it leaves a large number of travelers who have not received or have not yet received the vaccine. vaccine.

Third wave

Denmark will become the first nation in the world to release a “coronavirus passport” for travel abroad later this month. The idea of ​​immunity passports has been discussed among European countries since the beginning of the pandemic. However, critics warn that such passports could be discriminatory and could affect people’s right to keep their medical records private. CNN’s Nina Dos Santos reports.

Young says the EU decision to allow unvaccinated people to qualify for health passports with a negative antigen test will help, but could still be a barrier for some to travel.

“Developing cheaper test options is also necessary if the cost is to sit with the consumer,” he says. “The current cost of PCR testing will deter some travelers, especially if they need to do a lot of testing when traveling.”

If approved as planned, the EU Digital Green Certificate will be valid in all EU Member States as well as in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. It will use a digitally signed QR code to protect against counterfeiting. They will be issued by hospitals, testing centers or health authorities, but the data must be verifiable across the EU via a digital portal.

The EU states that certificates will be issued for approved vaccines. Individuals vaccinated prior to the availability of the certificate, or outside the EU, must qualify. We hope that the certificates will be valid in non-EU countries as well.

It sounds like a golden ticket, but in reality, many European nations may not issue them on a scale. Covid rates are entering their third wave across the continent, prompting new locks in countries such as France and Italy. Ongoing controversy over the supply of vaccines and suspicions about the safety of the AstraZeneca piercing – which regulators say are unfounded – has hampered vaccination rates that were already much lower than those achieved by vanguard vaccinators such as the United Kingdom and the United Kingdom. Israel.

In Hungary, where the vaccination rate is higher than the EU average, officials believe that the Commission’s time will be better devoted to the supply of vaccines for the whole bloc.

“We consider the debate on the certificate to be a false one, because no one is waiting for certificates from Brussels; we are waiting for vaccines from Brussels,” said Gergely Gulyás, the caretaker Prime Minister of Hungary. “It would be desirable if Brussels shifted the focus of its activity in this area.”

Transparent measures

The certificate program will need the support of all 27 Member States if it is to pass next week and be introduced in June. Amid concerns from countries such as Belgium and Germany that it could lead to discrimination, EU leaders sought to boost confidence.

“We propose a common EU approach that will lead us on the path to a resumption of the EU in a safe, sustainable and predictable way,” said Stella Kyriakidi, commissioner for health and food safety, this week.

“The virus situation in Europe is still very demanding and trust in the decisions that are taken is vital. Only through a common approach can we safely return to full free movement in the EU, on the basis of transparent measures and full mutual trust.”

The World Health Organization, which has also expressed serious concerns about the risk of passport vaccination to create a two-tier society, this week proposed its own “smart digital certificate”, which sought to insist it was not a travel permit.

“This is something different from a passport,” WHO Europe Director Hans Kluge said on Thursday. “We do not encourage at this stage that vaccination is the determination of whether or not you can travel internationally. It should not be a requirement.”

He said there were ethical, practical and scientific reasons for this.

“There is a global shortage of vaccines,” he said. “So that would increase inequalities, and if there’s one thing we’ve learned from the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s that vulnerable people have been disproportionately hit.”

He said the lack of clarity on how long immunity lasts meant that vaccination certification did not guarantee travel suitability, as well as uncertainties about whether the vaccinated person could transmit the virus.

Such concerns have not prevented some countries from moving forward with their own certification and passport systems.

Winners and losers

Israel’s “green card” digital vaccination certificate is used to reopen venues and events.

ACK GUEZ / AFP via Getty Images

Israel, which has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, is already using a “green pass” to open restaurants, bars, venues and events. Denmark has suggested something similar to tourism officials, saying recently that it is necessary to ensure a “summer of joy”.

Meanwhile, some airlines are certifying to ensure that passengers do not have viruses. Australian airline Qantas has begun testing the CommonPass system, which will be required for overseas travel when the Australian border reopens.

Other airlines are subscribing to a digital card created by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which will allow passengers to obtain a negative Covid test certification to allow smoother airports.

In this tangled maze of digital bureaucracy, it is possible that the power of the European Union can help impose some uniformity and clarity on how global borders can be opened in the near future.

However, 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 deadly disease outweighs the rights of the unvaccinated,” he says. “Maybe that will change if the vaccine eventually means that Covid-19 is becoming 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 a piercing are still at risk.”

CNN’s James Frater, Sarah Dean and Sharon Braithwaite contributed to this story

Comments are closed.