The Federal Government is reportedly in active discussions with the airline industry to establish a modern vaccine passport system, designed to allow those immunised against COVID-19 to travel freely interstate and abroad.
The reality of a vaccine passport for travel both within Australia and overseas looks like it could be coming into fruition, with reports that the Federal Government in active discussions with the airline industry.
However, the idea has come under scrutiny from state and federal Labor heavyweights, who have called on the Commonwealth to ramp up vaccination rates and bolster quarantine facilities before toying with a new travel registry system.
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The Guardian reported that the government is in formal talks with the global International Air Transport Association group (IATA), which represents 290 major carriers, regarding the possibility of using the organisation’s existing Travel Pass app to store vaccination data.
Air New Zealand has already launched a trial using the app, but the possibilities of such a system being launched in Australia is up in the air while vaccination rates remain low.
Theoretically – a vaccine passport could allow immunised Australians to travel more freely during the COVID-19 pandemic, or allow returning Australians to enter the country without first undertaking two weeks of mandatory hotel quarantine.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said vaccine passports would be the “next step” in Australia’s slow reopening to the world.
Remarking on his government’s prediction that borders will open no earlier than mid-2022, Morrison said “we’ve got to plan for when we reopen, but it’s not safe to do it yet.”
“And so we’ll keep planning and we’ll get those processes in place.”
Speaking on ABC News Breakfast on Thursday morning, Deputy Labor Leader Richard Marles said vaccine passports are a concept “we’re all going to have to face going forward” while calling on the federal government to deliver stronger vaccination levels and more Commonwealth-run quarantine facilities first.
“I don’t hear an end-of-COVID conversation that the government is having with the Australian people,” Marles said.
“What does it look like to actually get to the other side? I think that’s one of the problems here.
“Because clearly, proper quarantine facilities [and] getting vaccinated is central to that, but you don’t hear the government talking that through.”
Later in the program, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said National Cabinet had not been involved in any discussions about utilising a vaccine passport system for domestic travel, as was flagged by Morrison this week.
“I don’t know how a passport would work around Australia,” Palaszczuk said. “To me, there’s been no discussion at National Cabinet of how it would work [or] why it would be necessary.”
Palaszczuk echoed her earlier calls for the Commonwealth to bolster the number of quarantine facilities it supports, instead of allowing states to bear the brunt of the virus-shielding system.
“Why wouldn’t you put all of your cards on table and think, ‘What more can I do to keep Australians safe?’” she said.
Europe’s “digital green certificate”
EU negotiators have struck an agreement for the “digital green certificate” scheme, which holiday hubs see as a vital lifeline for the coming peak tourist season, according to sources from Portugal, which holds the EU presidency right now.
The breakthrough comes after several tough negotiation rounds involving representatives of the member states, the European Parliament and the European Commission.
The certificate will take the form of a QR code on a smartphone or paper, letting authorities determine the status of a visitor based on records in their home EU country.
The certificate will show if a person has been vaccinated, had a recent negative test or already has immunity based on recovery.
This could provide the basis for waiving the quarantine requirements currently in place for many trips within the bloc.
However, it remains up to each of the 27 member countries to decide what kind of perks the certificate brings within its borders.
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