EU plans to boost summer travel with its proposal for a digital vaccine passport

As the vaccination roll-out accelerates around the world, many countries are starting to think about how they can enable vaccinated citizens to travel and visit public places such as restaurants and sports stadiums. The EU has announced it will be outlining its proposal for a digital vaccine passport this month, in time for the summer tourism season.

What is the EU vaccine passport going to look like?

Vaccine passports – which aren”t passports as we know them, but rather a certificate of vaccination – will provide evidence to other countries that a traveller has received full vaccination against COVID-19.

This means that, in theory, people will gain unrestricted access to flights, restaurants, bars, tourist attractions and festivals. It also means quarantine protocols, like locking down for up to 14 days in a hotel, can be avoided.

When is it expected to be introduced to travellers in Europe?

Yesterday, European Commission president Ursula Von der Leyen said she would put forward legislation for a ‘digital green pass’ this month.

The European Commission is expected to publish draft legislation on 17 March. They will lay out the details on the format of a common EU vaccination certificate. It could include information such as test results, and whether someone has had – and recovered from – COVID-19.

What’s the problem with the passport?

The move doesn’t come without its controversy. The ‘passport’ runs the risk of creating separate categories of people in society: the vaccinated and the non-vaccinated. This is being seen as especially unfair to the many countries where it is difficult to access vaccines, with some developing countries predicted to receive doses in 2024. This is the view of the World Health Organisation, along with countries like France and Belgium, who believe the solution could be discriminatory. Countries including Spain, Greece and Portugal, who heavily rely on tourism – especially in the summer – have been more receptive to using vaccine passports.

Last month, Denmark’s government got ahead of the game and said it was joining forces with businesses to develop a digital passport. Finance Minister Morten Boedskov told a news conference that “in three, four months, a digital corona passport will be ready for use in, for example, business travel.”

It’s anticipated that the digital passport timelines will become clearer once the proposal has been officially announced. Whether the UK will be included in the plans is yet to be decided.

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