It was slow to happen but the European Union is going to implement a COVID-19 digital vaccination passport to make it easier for tourists to travel within the bloc, the idea of Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said, “As for the question of what the digital green passport could look like: we will submit a legislative proposal in March,”for the plan.
The news came during a video conference with German conservative lawmakers, backing Mitsotakis’ scheme that would let people with COVID-19 passports get through airports faster without facing tests or quarantines.
Tourism is critical to Greece’s battered economy, the sector taking a hard hit in 2020 when the pandemic was raging, international air traffic ground almost to a halt and people reluctant to travel.
Israel had already struck agreements with Greece and Cyprus to let people proving they had been vaccinated to travel between them, Greece technically making a side deal outside the EU’s realm.
Anyone unwilling or unable to get the jabs that confer immunity will be “left behind,” said Health Minister Yuli Edelstein.
“It’s really the only way forward at the moment,” Geffen said in an interview with The Associated Press.
“People can’t live their lives in the new world without them,” he said. “We must take the vaccines. We must.”
But a vaccine passport faces opposition from some of the bloc's 27 member states, the BBC noted in a report, with France and Germany reluctant to require them because data on the efficacy of vaccines in preventing a person from carrying or passing on the virus is incomplete.
Some critics have called the passports a kind of Scarlet Letter that would attach stigmas to people who aren’t vaccinated or refuse to do so for religious or other reasons.
With vaccines given initially to mostly the elderly, those with underlying or multiple conditions, politicians or the privileged to who use their power and influence to go to the head of the line, the young – big travelers – could be left out.
With COVID-19 variants from the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil popping up there’s also uncertainty how well the vaccinations work against them and if people who’ve been inoculated are safe to travel.
France, where anti-vaccine sentiment is particularly strong and where the government has pledged not to make them compulsory, considers the idea of vaccine passports as “premature,” an official said, Reuters reported.
It’s uncertain what form the passport will take, including whether it should be in digital form, be accepted globally and at what stage of the two-step inoculation process it should be issued, the news agency said.“We call for work to continue on a common approach to vaccination certificates,” a draft statement said..
Officials said the EU was working with the International Air Transport Association, eager to revive air travel, and with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and the World Health Organization.
But travel with certificates also raised legal questions, officials said, because those last in line for vaccinations could argue their freedom of movement was unjustly restricted by the often months-long queues to get their shots.