EU unveils vaccine passports prototype

Commissioner Thiery Breton hopes this would give tourism a boost

European Internal Market Commissioner and head of the EC's vaccines task force, Thierry Breton, unveiled the first European "health passport" on Sunday, claiming he hopes Europe will have a summer season "comparable to last year". The new health certificate should be available “within two to three months” in both digital and paper formats, Breton told RTL radio and TV channel LCI.

Included in the digital version of the passport will be a QR code, the state you’re from and whether you have been vaccinated or not. The paper version will contain personal details such as name and date of birth and also the passport number that is certified with a QR code, detailing whether you’ve been vaccinated and if you’ve been a carrier of the disease.

“For those who have had neither the vaccine nor the disease and for whom a PCR test will be requested, you can see the status of your PCR test,” he added.

It was the first time, people got a glimpse of the health passport that will be made available throughout the EU, validated by the 27 Member States.

“From the moment we can be sure that every European who wants to be vaccinated will have fair access to the vaccine, as will be the case in the next two to three months – it will be good to have a health certificate that demonstrates your condition,” said Breton.

Implementing the health travel document is planned for 15 June, which would allow travel to resume across Europe, he added. This is supported by an acceleration of Covid-19 vaccination rollouts, with the European Union expected to deliver 420 million doses by mid-July.

“We have to shift to the next gear. This will be the price for having a tourist season that I hope will be comparable to last year’s, which in the end wasn’t so bad in the context we’re in,” Breton also said.

The EU’s vaccination scheme has been dogged by delays and shortfalls, with controversy over AstraZeneca’s distribution of doses creating even more friction within the bloc. After some countries paused the administration of AstraZeneca and later resumed the rollout, like Italy, other countries across Europe are currently not giving any of this firm’s doses to citizens, including Norway and Denmark.

But Breton insisted that any AstraZeneca vaccinations produced in the EU will stay there until the company delivers on its commitments.

The announcement came a few days after Members of the European Parliament have decided to speed up the process of the Digital Green Certificate, often referred to as vaccine passports, approval in order to enable their issuance in time for summer 2021 and at the same time to allow safe and unrestricted movement during the pandemic.

The MEPs supported activating the emergency procedure (Rule 163), which would allow faster parliamentary observation and examination of the Commission’s proposal while respecting its democratic privileges, with 468 votes in favour, 203 votes against, and 16 abstentions, reports.

In a press release, the European Parliament revealed that in a debate held on March 25-26, MEPs thus emphasised the need to ensure an adequate number of vaccines across the European Union countries through a standardised approach.

Nevertheless, some of the MEPs expressed their concern regarding the non-vaccinated individuals saying that they can face discrimination and pointed out the need to provide the highest data protection standards.

Commenting on the certificates, the Chair of the Civil Liberties Committee Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar, said that the EU needs the Digital Green Certificate in order to restore the tourism in the Schengen Area and fight the Coronavirus pandemic.

“The certificate cannot be a precondition for free movement as this is a fundamental right in the European Union, and it cannot lead to discrimination against those individuals who do not hold one. Citizens’ data must be safe, and only necessary data should be included in the certificate,” Chair Aguilar said.

During the weekend several other countries such as Japan, China and the US also announced or rolled-out similar vaccine certifications for travelling.

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