A vaccine passport is a certificate that proves that you have been vaccinated against COVID-19 or that you have antibodies to it. The discussion around the the document appeared even before the start of vaccination, but it was just a rumor back then. A year later, when vaccinations began almost all over the world, the topic of introducing some kind of standard format confirmation has gained momentum again.
So far, no one can clearly formulate the goals of such measures. Politicians believe that this is necessary to return to the normal lifestyle: vaccinated people should have the right to freedom of movement both inside their country and in the outside world. At the same time, it is not yet a question of making the receipt of such a certificate a mandatory procedure.
In Russia, for example, a certificate is already issued after receiving a vaccine or a QR code in the Public Services (an official state app) . However, it is not yet clear what to do with it, because the pool of opportunities has not been designated.
The attitude of the international community to the "passport" is far from positive. Many see in it as a restriction and discrimination against those who have not and cannot get vaccinated. But it is still not worth hoping that the appearance of "vaccine passports" will not have any consequences.
Anyway, many countries are already introducing the appropriate certificates, and in some places it even gives certain advantages. Who has already taken this desperate step?
Georgia has become a pioneer, opening its borders to all vaccinated tourists. It is enough to present a certificate of any of the existing vaccinations against coronavirus. Travelers without vaccination are also allowed, but only if there is a PCR test. But this openness to any vaccines has emerged in the arena of the battle against the pandemic for the first time.
Even now, vaccinated people are allowed on the islands, provided that they wait 14 days after taking both doses of the vaccine, along with a negative PCR test made 72 hours before the trip. Starting in mid-March, the government expects to vaccinate a significant part of its population, and then the Seychelles will open, including for unvaccinated tourists who will present a negative test for coronavirus.
The goal of this island nation is to vaccinate as many locals as possible. Then the incoming tourists will no longer pose a danger to the citizens of the country. The approximate date is mid-March, but in the current situation it is pretty unpredictable.
Recently, Lebanon decided to allow visits from foreign tourists with confirmed vaccination. However, this does not exempt you from a PCR test made no earlier than 96 hours before departure, and a repeat test on arrival. All visa requirements remain unchanged.
One of the pioneers in "covid certification" and the country with the largest number of vaccinated citizens. At the moment, more than 4.6 million people have been vaccinated with the first dose, and 3.2 million citizens out of a population of 9.1 million have been vaccinated with the second dose in Israel.
Vaccinated people are given so-called “green passports”, which allow them to visit gyms, concerts and other public places, although within some restrictions. Israel's Health Minister, Yuli Edelstein, added fuel to the fire, saying that the risk of "being left out" was the most effective way to overcome the hesitancy to vaccinate.
And just recently, Israel, Greece and Cyprus signed an agreement on the mutual recognition of vaccination certificates to stimulate tourism. Against this background, the demand for certificates from incoming tourists from different countries no longer seems like a fantasy, but rather a matter of the near future.
The Greek certificate is a QR code that can be scanned whenever a person enters the country by air, sea or rail. This option is being tested in a trial mode together with Cyprus and Israel. You can get it only after the second stage of vaccination.
According to the Prime Minister of Greece, no one plans to require such a certificate from travelers at the moment. But for tourists without the vaccine, the same restrictions will remain, such as passing a PCR test on arrival and self-isolation for seven days. It is already clear that visitors to the country who are vaccinated against COVID-19 will receive certain privileges.
Critics of such innovations point to the ethical side of the issue, since those who cannot get vaccinated for medical or other objective reasons remain limited.
However, it should be remembered that Greece is a country directly dependent on tourism. The government hopes that other countries will be able to learn from the Greek experience and restore the previous level of movement around the world. Now the administration is negotiating with the UK on the conclusion of an agreement similar to the Cyprus one.
At the moment, 55 thousand certificates have already been issued in the country.
Back in December, Cyprus became the first European country to announce that it would lift quarantine rules for travelers by March, if they were vaccinated (and certified). Last month, after the signing of the agreement with Israel, the chairman of the State Committee for Tourism, Savvas Perdios, announced his readiness to discuss similar measures with Russia.
Sweden during the epidemic became famous all over the world for its principle of ignoring the pandemic. Unfortunately, this did not play into their hands, and today there are more than 600 thousand infected people in the country.
Nevertheless, looking at the readiness of the EU countries to develop certificates and passports, Sweden and Denmark have expressed a desire to introduce a corresponding document in the summer of this year. Although the main goal is to confirm the vaccine, Denmark has already said that it is ready to issue a certificate to facilitate work trips. It is worth noting that both countries hope that by this time the EU will have developed a common standard document that can be used by all tourists.
The positive attitude of the authorities of the Nordic countries is compensated by a very small number of vaccinated people – about 5% in each.
On January 21, 2021, the Icelandic authorities began issuing "COVID-19 vaccination certificates" to Icelandic citizens, becoming the first country in the Schengen area to start such a practice.
Poland has introduced a special QR code through its mObywatel app, which can be scanned to confirm that the user has been fully vaccinated, meaning they have received two doses. The country has not yet said whether any easing will be introduced for the holders of the "passport".
Both certificates remain at the electronic level for the time being. But the Icelandic government has decided to recognize all "COVID-19 vaccination certificates" issued by any of the EU and Schengen countries.
A number of European countries, such as Spain, Slovakia, Hungary, Portugal and Italy, support such actions and develop their own measures to confirm vaccination, whether it is certificates, cards, "passports" or QR codes.
Currently, vaccination is rather sluggish, so such drastic measures may seem premature. But the past year has taught us that everything in this world changes very quickly. In the meantime, we can only observe what other countries are willing to do for the sake of opening borders.