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Europe is officially launching a vaccine passport

The EU’s ‘digital green pass’ will allow those who have had the jab to travel more freely within Europe this summer

Huw Oliver

The global rollout of the vaccines is now well underway – and that means countries all over the world are considering how to reopen their economies. Several nations have already set up their own ‘vaccine passport’ schemes that allow citizens to prove they have had the jab to gain access to certain services, like dining out, going to the gym or attending big public gatherings. And now the EU has confirmed it will launch its own ‘digital green pass’, which will allow those who have received the jab to travel more easily within the continent.

Didier Reynders, the European justice commissioner, yesterday said the pass would be ‘for all EU citizens’, as well as travellers from Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland (the four European Free Trade Association countries). The aim of the scheme is to allow anyone who has been vaccinated against Covid-19, has recently tested negative or has recovered from the virus to travel more freely across European borders.

Reynders added that there was still a lot of work to be done before the passes can be introduced, but that he hoped the scheme would be in place in time for the summer tourist season.

The European Commission’s proposal for the ‘digital green pass’ states that if any of the EU’s 27 member states allow vaccinated travellers from a particular country to skip restrictions such as testing or quarantine, they must also do so for travellers from all other countries within the bloc.

It’s a clear sign that countries all over the world are likely to take a coordinated approach when it comes to rebooting their flagging tourism industries – even though certain European countries are said to have clashed over the proposals in recent weeks.

While tourism-dependent countries like Greece and Spain have been pushing for a plan to restart travel in time for summer, others including France and Belgium have raised concerns about data protection and potential for discrimination between those who have and haven’t been inoculated.

And it may also apply to countries that aren’t members of the European Union. The EU Commission said earlier this month that it would work with the World Health Organisation to expand the scheme to other nations. The official spokesperson for British prime minister Boris Johnson added that the UK would discuss collaborating with the EU on its new ‘vaccine passport’ plans.

Full details of the scheme will be released over the coming weeks, and the ‘passports’ are unlikely to be launched until June at the earliest. But the fact that an overseas trip might be possible again later this year is – finally! – the positive travel news we all needed to hear right now.

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