The idea of “health passports” is something that’s been on the table for some time. After the reopening of national borders last summer, the EU saw a surge in the number of COVID-19 cases, despite there being a decline in periods with the toughest travel restrictions.
This has shown that normality will be unlikely until the virus is under control. However, this puts millions of jobs, particularly those in the tourism sector, at risk. Additionally, it causes issues for businesses that are dependent on free movement, travelers, and holidaymakers.
Many people believe that a vaccine passport could allow movement to resume, as people that have been vaccinated would be able to bypass travel restrictions and move freely.
However, this idea has been met with mixed reactions, and EU countries are currently split on whether or not the idea would be effective and fair.
Last week, Commission president Ursula Von der Leyen said that legislation would be brought forward this month for a digital passport that would allow carriers to travel without restrictions.
The first draft of this common EU vaccination certificate, which would include information like test results, vaccination status, and whether someone has recovered from coronavirus, is due to be published by the European Commission on the 17th March.
Some countries, such as Spain, Portugal, and Greece, are more dependant on tourism economically as they are popular holiday destinations. Most of these countries’ governments have welcomed the idea of vaccine passports.
But, some other member states, including France and Belgium, say that it could be unfair on some countries and on citizens that haven’t been vaccinated yet.
Sophie Wilmès, Belgium’s foreign minister, said that although it would allow greater freedom of movement, “respect for the principle of non-discrimination is more fundamental than ever since vaccination is not compulsory and access to the vaccine is not yet generalised.”
However, a spokesperson for the European Commission added that the legislative proposal was “aimed at free movement of people, which is a European competence.”
They added, “We’re of the view that in collaboration with WHO, there should be a way to scale this up globally. We work on a European solution now – this is where we start – and then anything else would need to come after.”
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