The European Commission is exploring proposals to introduce vaccine passports, a move that will facilitate greater travel across borders within the EU. Member states will discuss the idea at a summit this week, with many already signaling their approval for a passport-style document.
EU countries press for COVID passports
The concept of a vaccine passport has already been touted by some EU member states, including Greece, Spain and Belgium. In a November interview with Simple Flying, Lufthansa executive, Bjoern Becker, revealed that governments are looking at immunity documentation and predicted its widespread rollout. The idea behind a passport system is to allow more freedom of movement between borders without risking further spread of the virus.
The European Commission is considering standardized passports that would be valid throughout Europe and possibly beyond. Leaders are hopeful of a common approach agreed upon by the end of January, with discussions set for a virtual summit this Thursday. European Commission vice-president, Margaritis Schinas, said,
“We feel that now this is the time for these vaccine certificates to be recognized across the European Union, and even beyond the European Union.”
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You may need two passports to fly
Authorities have consulted with airlines on the matter, with many carriers in favor of mandating vaccination passports or certificates. Presently, COVID tests act as de facto second passports across the world, with airlines and countries refusing passengers unable to present a negative result.
Several airlines have already indicated their pro-vaccination position, including Qantas, which is looking at a ‘no jab, no fly’ policy on long-haul international flights. Proposals for a standard COVID passport are still in the early stages, with no indication yet of how the passports will work in practice. Ireland’s Health Minister, Stephen Donnelly, spoke with NewsTalk about possible options,
“We can decide what’s the easiest and most secure thing to do – in terms of is it paper-based or card-based, for example like our driver’s license, or is it a digital certificate that you might have to submit to an airline before being able to book a flight.”
Carriers are implementing their own passport systems
The European Commission can look to airlines for direction if it eventually implements vaccine passports. Last week, American Airlines announced its new health passport scheme, adopting a digital approach involving its VeriFLY app. International travelers to the United States will use the app to upload proof of a negative COVID test from 23rd January.
UAE airlines Etihad and Emirates will also participate in health passports after teaming up with the International Air Transport Association (IATA). Both carriers will trial the new IATA Travel Pass over the coming weeks to try and reinvigorate dwindling international travel demand. Travel Pass is an app that will validate test results and provide passengers with crucial travel information.
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