A fundamental part of the EU is the notion of open borders between members states and the free flow of people across the region. During Covid-19, it’s been necessary to bring back many borders to limit the spread of the virus but as more and more people become vaccinated, the concept of vaccination or immunity passports is making the possibility of travel a reality for many–deals are starting to be put in place among EU countries.
Many EU/Schengen area countries, such as Greece, Denmark, Sweden and Iceland are working on getting vaccination passports up and running. In Poland, people will download a QR code to their mobile phone from a centralized health website to take with them on their travels, and in Denmark, they will open an application, which will act like a second passport.
It also looks possible in the U.K., where government sources have told The Telegraph, that experts say it would be “feasible” to set up a vaccine passport system for international travel.
The likelihood is that there will be an EU-wide document that would be common for all member states and would help to form the basis of decisions about who gets to come into Europe and how. Since the virus began in 2020, for instance, the EU has been talking about only allowing visa applications to be successfully processed across its member states if accompanied by a negative Covid-19 PCR test.
And now countries are starting to make deals for summer 2021 to allow anyone who has been vaccinated to cross freely between the countries involved:
The blurred lines around vaccination passports
The World Health Organization (WHO) however, has urged caution because it is not yet clear how far vaccinated people can also spread the virus. Nor is it yet possible to say whether all variants (and future variants) might work equally with all vaccines.
The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), a forum for the travel and tourism industry is also opposed to the idea of reopening global tourism on the basis of vaccinations because it sees them as a form of discrimination.
President and CEO Gloria Guevara said, “it will take a significant amount of time to vaccinate the global population, particularly those in less advanced countries, or in different age groups; therefore we should not discriminate against those who wish to travel but have not been vaccinated.”
And what about countries that won’t vaccinate?
The Conversation reported on how the Madagascan government has decided to not vaccinate its population and the Tanzanian government is going against the recommendations of scientists and the WHO, and is instead recommending that Tanzanians turn to prayer and traditional medicine to protect themselves against Covid-19.
The risk is obviously that neighboring countries cannot be Covid-free (jeopardising not just health but the economy) and that new variants can arise in uncontrolled spread. The implication is, therefore, that mutations might be able to reinfect the vaccinated population.