Support for a “digital green certificate” that would provide proof that a person has been vaccinated against COVID-19, has recovered from the virus, or has a negative test result, is growing in Europe.
More than 60 travel and tourism organizations have expressed their support for a digital health pass, which is being proposed by the European Commission (EC) for summer 2021.
The European Tourism Manifesto alliance, the collective is called, is strongly welcoming the EC’s proposal, according to a statement posted to the European Travel Commission’s (ETC) website.
Word of using a digital health pass to revive Europe's travel industry surfaced a couple of weeks ago after commission chief Ursula von der Leyen confirmed on Twitter that legislation was being proposed.
READ MORE: EU proposing digital “green pass” for travel
“The Digital Green Pass should facilitate Europeans‘ lives,” von der Leyen wrote, noting how the pass will respect data protection, security and privacy. “The aim is to gradually enable them to move safely in the European Union or abroad – for work or tourism.”
The term “green pass” is modelled off of an initiative used by Israel, which outpaces the world in vaccination rates with more than half of its population now vaccinated.
Israel, for example, uses an app that allows people to show proof of vaccination or if they have presumed immunity after contracting COVID-19.
Having the pass, in turn, allows individuals to move more freely amid the pandemic (by allowing entrance into restaurants and large venues, for example).
Canada looking into it
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has confirmed that Canada is investigating the concept of "vaccine passports."
However, at a press briefing last week, he implied that such passes are perceived differently when comparing their use in domestic and international settings.
Proof of vaccination for international travel is “something that has existed for a long time,” Trudeau said. “When you travel to certain countries, you need to demonstrate that you’ve been vaccinated for certain diseases. This is a well-established practice.”
At the same time: “There are questions of fairness and justice that come into play,” Trudeau said, suggesting that digital health cards can also be discriminatory.
“We need to think of people who, for medical reasons or for other circumstances, cannot or do not want to be vaccinated,” Trudeau said.
Trudeau isn't writing off the idea entirely, mind you. "We’ll see how the next few months unfold," he told journalists on March 12.
Facilitating safe travel
The ETC, meanwhile, says that digital proof of vaccination or COVID-19 testing will “greatly facilitate safe free movement of citizens and restart of travel and tourism in the EU."
There are, already, a number of European countries that facilitate entry if travellers can provide such proof, the ETC says.
And the commission expects more countries will follow as vaccinations are rolled out and the health situation improves.
EU coordination is thus “vital to avoid a fragmented situation with 27 different certificates covering testing, vaccination and immunity,” it says.
Digital passes won’t be enough
The alliance is urging the European Parliament and the Council to swiftly approve the Commission’s proposal, and for all Member States to ensure a speedy implementation.
It also calls on the EU to work collaboratively with the World Health Organization, OECD and other international bodies to come to a global solution for the digitization of vaccination, testing and immunity records to facilitate international travel when the epidemiological situation allows.
The digital pass on its own, however, “will not be enough,” says the ETC.
The alliance reiterates the urgent need to develop a concrete EU roadmap, following a risk-based and data-driven approach, to identify the conditions and scenarios under which current travel restrictions could be loosened and lifted in a coordinated manner across the EU and beyond.
The recent industry recommendations cover:
- Creation of an EU Task Force in cooperation with the industry and social partners to restore travel and tourism.
- Coordination of travel restrictions and requirements.
- A harmonized EU framework for travel-related testing with sufficient affordable capacity
- Coordinated reopening of tourism activities, for instance based on the EU Guidance for the progressive resumption of tourism services issued on 13th May 2020.
A recent survey also revealed a strong pent-up demand among Europeans to resume travel with 54% aiming to take a trip before the end of July 2021. Notably, 41% of respondents wish to travel to another European country.
“The Digital Green Certificate proposal released today is a major step in the right direction. But time is of essence now,” says Eduardo Santander, Chairman of the European Tourism Manifesto alliance and CEO of the European Travel Commission. “We need a clear plan outlining conditions and timing to prepare for the safe restart of travel and tourism in Europe to be ready for the critical summer season 2021!"
"Europe should work on this together leaving no place for fragmentation and unilateral actions."
For more information, go to tourismmanifesto.eu.
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