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Vaccine passports can save the summer of Europe, but only for the lucky ones

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(CNN) The summer door is slowly opening in Europe and for those who want to stroll through it to take a break amid Covid’s constant restrictions, the key may be close.

While the borders are likely to remain closed in the coming weeks, the European Union is proposing to issue a Green Digital Certificate, or vaccine passport that will allow them with the required arms of approved anti-Covid pharmacy or antibodies because they had the virus, to travel freely. Negative tests can also be used to qualify.

It is a measure eagerly anticipated by Europe’s top tourist destinations, including Portugal, Spain and Greece, where the lack of visitors over the past year has left open holes in the balance sheets of national banks.

But will it be right?

While the troubled tourism industry is happy with the plan, which the EU is expected to vote on later in March, there are fears that fragmented vaccination distributions and supplies across Europe could mean some countries will enjoy more freedom than others.

Likewise, with certain demographics set for early vaccination over others, some may be forced to stay home, jealously watching the elderly citizens, many of whom will have received both strokes before the end of spring, left for their time in the sun.

And while the EU’s executive body, the European Commission, envisions the new Green Certificate simply as a document to allow its citizens smooth transit across European borders, concerns have been raised that they will also be required to enter restaurants, bars or other places and events

While the newly Brexited UK will not be part of the program, the success of its vaccination program could see special travel deals tied to several EU countries that will allow Britons to bypass the need for certification.

Those EU citizens who are not yet qualified for vaccination – or unable to qualify – can be bypassed by returning to normalcy, most of us are eager to embrace if they do not undergo frequent testing regimens.

The injustice of generations

A warning of this can already be seen at sea. Some major cruise companies are advertising summer departures that will only be open to travelers able to prove they have had a full supply of vaccines.

Anger, some commentators say, is inevitable.

“Only over 50 will be vaccinated this summer, so there may be protests from young people,” said Kaye McIntosh, former editor of the consumer magazine Health Which? and WI Life, tells CNN Travel. “It adds to the sense of generational injustice created by austerity, house prices and student loans. I would not blame Gen Z for his anger.”

Norbert Hidi, a 24-year-old student from the Hungarian capital Budapest, is among those waiting to go anywhere.

“To put it bluntly, it’s not fair,” Hidi told CNN Travel. “Most of us will not be inoculated by the summer so that means we can not travel or maybe go to bars or restaurants. The older generation made the vaccines first because they are more endangered, but that will not it means they have more rights because of it “.

Brian Young, managing director at UK headquarters G Adventures, a travel company offering a range of options including tours for 18 to thirty years, is confident that vaccine passports will help revive tourism around the world. even if some will lose this year.

“With international travel being almost completely sustainable for a year now, it is essential that governments work together to find a uniform solution for opening borders and allowing holidaymakers to start flying again,” Young tells CNN Travel.

“Vaccine announcement has seen an increase in confidence in the 50s and, while proposals for vaccine passports will present a good solution as proof for those who have received the vaccine, it leaves a large proportion of travelers who have not received or are yet to receive the vaccine, uncovered. “

The third wave

Denmark will become the first nation in the world to open a “coronavirus passport” for foreign travel later this month. The idea of ​​immunity passports has been debated among European countries since the beginning of the pandemic. But critics warn such passports could be discriminatory and could affect people’s right to keep their medical records private. Nina Dos Santos reports to CNN.

Young says the EU decision to allow unvaccinated individuals to qualify for health passports with a negative test for antigens will help, but may still be a hindrance for some to travel.

“Using cheaper testing options is also essential if the cost is to be reduced with the consumer,” he says. “The actual cost of PCR tests will deter some travelers, especially if they are required to take multiple tests when traveling.”

If approved as planned, the EU Digital Green Certificate will be valid in all EU Member States, as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. Will use a QR code with a digital signature to protect against counterfeiting. It will be issued by hospitals, testing centers or health authorities, but the data must be verified across the EU through a digital gateway.

The EU says certificates will be issued for approved vaccines. People inoculated before the certificate is available, or outside the EU, still need to qualify. It is hoped that the certificates will be valid in countries outside the EU.

It seems like a golden ticket, but in reality, many European nations may be far from the way they are issued on the scale. Covid rates are entering their third wave across the continent, prompting new blockades in countries such as France and Italy.
Ongoing disputes over vaccine supplies and suspicions about the safety of the AstraZeneca stroke – which regulators say are unfounded – have hampered inoculation rates that were already well below those achieved by leading vaccinators such as the United Kingdom. and Israel.

In Hungary, where the vaccination rate is higher than the EU average, officials think the Commission’s time would be better spent on procuring vaccines for the whole bloc.

“We consider the certificate debate to be a false debate because no one expects certificates from Brussels; we are waiting for vaccines from Brussels,” Gergely Gulys, the minister in charge of the Hungarian prime minister ‘s office, said on Thursday. “It would be desirable for Brussels to shift the focus of its activity in this area.”

Transparent mass

The certificate plan will need the support of all 27 member states if it is approved next week and presented in June. Amid concerns from countries such as Belgium and Germany that it could result in discrimination, EU leaders have sought to strengthen trust.

“We are proposing a common EU approach that will guide us on our path to our goal of reopening the EU in a safe, sustainable and predictable way,” said Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety. week.

“The virus situation in Europe is still very challenging and trust in the decisions made is essential. Only through a common approach can we return safely to full free movement in the EU, based on transparent measures and full mutual trust. “

The World Health Organization, which has also expressed grave concern about the risk of vaccination passports, creating a two-tier society, this week proposed its own “digital smart certificate”, which it was in pain to insist that it was not a license to travel.

“This is something different from a passport,” WHO Europe Director Hans Kluge said on Thursday. “We do not encourage at this stage that getting a vaccination is decisive whether you can travel internationally or not. It should not be a requirement.”

He said there were ethical, practical and scientific reasons for this.

“There is a global shortage of vaccines,” he said. “So that would increase inequalities, and if there’s one thing we’ve learned from the Covid-19 pandemic, it is that vulnerable people are being disproportionately hit.”

He said the lack of clarity on how long the immunity lasts meant that vaccination certification was no guarantee of travel ability, as well as uncertainties as to whether inoculated could transmit the virus.

Such concerns have not stopped some countries from moving forward with their certification and passport schemes.

Winners and losers

Of Israel

Israel’s “digital pass” digital vaccination certificate is being used to allow the opening of venues and events.

ACK GUEZ / AFP through Getty Images

Israel, which has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, is already using a “green permit” to open restaurants, bars, venues and events. Denmark has proposed something similar to tourism officials recently saying it is essential to ensure a summer of joy.

Meanwhile some airlines are approving certification to ensure that passengers are not virus free. Australian carrier Qantas has begun testing the CommonPass system which will be needed for overseas travel when the Australian border reopens.

Other airlines are registering a digital permit created by the International Air Transport Association, IATA, which will allow passengers to charge negative Covid test certification to allow smoother passage through airports.

Amid this confusing maze of digital documents, it is possible that the power of the European Union could help establish a uniformity and clarity on how global borders can be opened in the near future.

But as health expert McIntosh adds, there are likely to be winners and losers, and there are no guarantees, especially not in the long run.

“The right not to be exposed to a deadly disease goes beyond the rights of the unvaccinated,” she says. “Perhaps this will change if vaccination eventually means that Covid-19 becomes something more common, such as seasonal flu – although it still kills thousands of people each year.

“But no vaccine is 100% effective, so even people who have had a stroke are still at risk.”

CNN’s James Frater, Sarah Dean and Sharon Braithwaite contributed to this story

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