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COVID-19 vaccine passports for travel within the EU take off in Europe

COVID-19 vaccine passports for travel within the EU take off in Europe
COVID-19 vaccine passports for travel within the EU take off in Europe
Written by Harry Johnson

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis called the vaccine passports a “fast lane to facilitate travel” in Europe and help “restore freedom of movement,” as the European Union pushes for all member states to adopt the system.

  • EU has pressed for all 27 of its member states to adopt a bloc-wide passport by July 1
  • The passports will also be valid in non-EU nations Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland
  • US government officials are saying that they’re also considering the idea

Greece and Denmark rolled out the new passes on Friday, becoming the first European Union states to launch COVID-19 vaccine passports for travel within the EU.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis called the vaccine passports a “fast lane to facilitate travel” in Europe and help “restore freedom of movement,” as the European Union pushes for all member states to adopt the system.

The European Union has pressed for all 27 of its member states to adopt a bloc-wide passport by July 1, agreeing to the plan in principle last week ahead of the summer tourism season. The push comes after the bloc called for an easing of the travel restrictions imposed at the height of the pandemic, recommending that members allow foreign visitors if they are fully vaccinated. 

The passports will also be valid in non-EU nations Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland, according to the European Commission.

While some EU states, including Denmark, had already implemented their own internal vaccine certificates, the new passports can be used for cross-border travel, in line with a March proposal by the European Commission. 

The Greek and Danish passports are managed through a smartphone app that shows a user’s vaccination status and the last time they were tested for coronavirus. Both also use a scannable QR code to quickly relay the information, though paper versions will also be made available.

While the European Parliament has yet to formally approve the passport scheme, several countries have already moved ahead. In addition to Greece and Denmark, Ireland also announced plans on Friday to adopt an international COVID pass by July 19, while the UK’s National Health Service recently updated its digital passport app for cross-border travel. 

US government officials are saying that they’re also considering the idea. As the passes gain traction across Europe, US officials have said they are also eyeing the concept for foreign travel, with Department of Homeland Security (DHS) chief Alejandro Mayorkas telling ABC on Friday that the Biden administration is “taking a very close look at that.”

A DHS spokesperson later clarified, however, that there would be no “federal mandate” for any kind of vaccine pass, adding that the government would help Americans only to meet entry requirements in other countries. 

“That’s what [Mayorkas] was referring to – ensuring that all US travelers will be able to easily meet any anticipated foreign country entry requirements,” they said.