Could vaccine passports help us return to normality?

Scotland’s entertainment leaders have said they believe that so-called “vaccine passports” are inevitable to allow leisure and travel industries to re-start after lockdown.

Vaccine passports could be used to grant entrance to an event.

Events organisers and travel experts said that technology - which allows people to prove that they have been vaccinated against coronavirus before attending an event or taking a holiday – could be a common requirement in the future.

Travel firm Saga, which operates holidays for older people, was among the first companies to say they would require customers to be vaccinated before they could take a trip earlier this week. Meanwhile, some countries have expressed an interest in launching their own systems, with trials set to take place in a number of countries.

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The Westminster government has said that vaccine passports are not yet being discussed, saying that it is not yet known how the vaccine affects transmissibility of the virus, while the Scottish Government has said it has no plans to create a national vaccination certification scheme.

Their concerns were echoed earlier this month by the World Health Organisation (WHO), which said that it was opposed "for the time being" to the introduction of certificates of vaccination as a condition for allowing international travellers entry into other countries.

Geoff Ellis, chief executive of DF Concerts, which runs the TRNSMT festival in Glasgow, said: “They could well be a feature, possibly tied in with Covid testing for those who haven’t yet been vaccinated.

“There are already several health apps out there with the ability to be developed to show if someone has had the vaccine or a negative Covid test in the required time window. They can then easily link to a mobile ticket to validate that and allow entry to an event (or even just to a pub or the cinema or a flight.”

He added: “It might all sound a little bit “Big Brother’ but if needs must and if such a passport provides a route back to live music, entertainment, hospitality, tourism and travel then I’m all for it.”

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Donald MacLeod, chief executive of Hold Fast Entertainment and spokesman for Scotland’s Night-Time Industries Association, said he believed the passports were “inevitable” but warned that consumers may have data protection concerns.

He said: “We would have to wonder what form these vaccine passports come in. I think there are all manner of civil liberties questions, which could stop it in its tracks.”

Tech companies across the world are already scrabbling to create the “passports”.

AOKPass, which was developed in March 2020 by the International Chamber of Commerce, is holding talks with 170 airports worldwide, with trials planned in France and Italy. Meanwhile, App Health Passport Europe has already been used to help facilitate events in South Africa, where a negative, on-the-spot covid test was required to attend music festival Recharge 2020.

John Lennon, director of the Moffat Centre for Travel and Tourism Business Development at Glasgow Caledonian University, said he thought the idea had “potential” for the travel industry.

However, he added: “There are too many unknowns and variables for it to be positioned as a sector solution at this stage.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The Scottish Government currently has no plans to provide specific certification for people who have received a COVID-19 vaccine, however all vaccinations are held on an individual’s medical records.”

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