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A patchwork: Europe and COVID-19 vaccination passports

European Union leaders moved closer on Thursday to an agreement on certificates showing that citizens have been vaccinated against COVID-19, a move that could revive international travel and save this summer’s holiday season.

FILE PHOTO: A woman holds a small bottle labelled with a "Coronavirus COVID-19 Vaccine" sticker in this illustration taken, October 30, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo

Some countries want an EU-wide approach instead of a patchwork of national schemes that in many cases are not intended to serve as travel documents. Halfway through a summit of leaders on the pandemic, officials said “convergence on a harmonised approach” to certificates was emerging.

Here’s where several EU member states and other European countries stand on vaccination certificates:

BETTER TOGETHER

GREECE has led calls for an EU-wide vaccine certificate to open up summer tourism. It has reached an agreement with Israel, which has launched a digital “Green Pass”, to ease travel for those with proof of vaccination. It issues certificates for people who have had twin shots.

Athens is in talks with Britain about a similar agreement, but its tourism minister was quoted as saying on Thursday that even unvaccinated Britons could visit the country.

SPAIN, AUSTRIA and BULGARIA also support a common EU approach. The government in Vienna says that, if there is no agreement at EU level by the spring, it will implement its own plan.

DOING THEIR OWN THING

DENMARK plans to launch a digital passport to document a traveller’s vaccination status, designed to be compatible with any future EU-wide scheme. SWEDEN plans a similar digital passport by summer, assuming an international standard is in place by then, as does FINLAND.

HUNGARY has announced that from March 1 it will issue a vaccination passport in the form of a card to citizens who have had the vaccine or have immunity after recovering from COVID-19. A decision about possible waivers from coronavirus restrictions will be taken later. People carrying the immunity passport will not have to go into quarantine.

RUSSIAN President Vladimir Putin ordered his government in January to consider issuing certificates to those who had been inoculated with domestic vaccines against COVID-19 for overseas travels.

THINKING ABOUT IT

BRITAIN is reviewing how COVID-19 status certificates could help reopen the economy. It will consider a system allowing vaccinated individuals to travel abroad more freely once more is known about the efficacy of vaccines against COVID-19 variants. The UK is working with the World Health Organization and other countries on an international framework for travel.

PORTUGAL is considering various options to resurrect the travel sector, but has cautioned that an EU-wide passport could lead to “some constraints” given delays in vaccinations.

WE HAVE OUR DOUBTS

GERMANY, which has restricted travel from neighbours with high rates of infection, is still in the early stages of debating the idea of vaccination certificates. There are widespread concerns that these could result in discrimination against those who choose not to be vaccinated.

ROMANIAN President Klaus Iohannis has said an EU vaccination passport would be divisive, splitting Europe between those who have been vaccinated and those who have not.

NO PLANS YET

POLAND has introduced a special QR code via its mObywatel app that can be scanned to confirm a user has been fully vaccinated, meaning they have received two doses. It has not yet said if it will introduce a specific vaccination “passport”.

FRANCE has not revealed any plans for a vaccination passport of its own, though travel industry lobbies and some opposition politicians have been pressing for such a scheme. ITALY does not have a national vaccination passport scheme.

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