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UK will not introduce Covid-19 vaccination passports

Credit: Danny Howard/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The United Kingdom is not looking at introducing Covid-19 vaccine passports to travel, according to UK vaccine deployment minister Nadhim Zahawi.

Even though the country will not issue immunity passports, people can still seek proof of being vaccinated from their GPs, if they need it for travel to other countries, Zahawi told Sky News on Sunday.

“We are certainly not looking to introduce it as part of the vaccine deployment programme,” he said, adding that the impact of the vaccines on virus transmission is not known yet.

Additionally, it would be “discriminatory,” according to Zahawi. “I think the right thing to do is to make sure that people come forward to be vaccinated because they want to, rather than it be made in some way mandatory through a passport.”

This week, both Denmark and Sweden announced plans to roll out digital vaccine certificates for travel, aiming to be able to restart tourism in the summer.

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Last month, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that she was in favour of creating some kind of vaccine certificate, calling it a “medical necessity.”

The statements were made in response to a proposal from Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who stated that vaccination would not be an explicit condition for travel, but that a guarantee of unhindered travel could motivate people to get vaccinated.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has urged the EU and its Member States to support the initiative, calling it “an important step towards giving governments the confidence to safely open their borders, and passengers the confidence to fly without the barrier of quarantine.”

Von der Leyen, however, stressed that political and legal questions about what rights would possibly be attached to a digital passport or vaccine certificate should be discussed, adding that agreements at the European level were necessary.

Belgium’s Foreign Affairs Minister and Deputy PM Sophie Wilmès already stated that such a document “cannot lead to discrimination between European citizens if there is no universal access to vaccines.” The certificate, if adopted, should not restrict people’s individual freedoms or cross-border mobility, she stressed.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times