Austria Set to Introduce Vaccine Passport Next Month

The card will be for vaccinated people, those who have had the virus & people who have tested negative. It’s hoped it will help re-start tourism but much depends on whether countries will allow their citizens to visit Austria as it has rising levels of Covid-19, with only 9% of the country vaccinated.

The Austrian Chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, has been an enthusiastic supporter of the passport.

Few details have been released but it is thought to be similar to the so-called ‘Green Card’ issued in Israel.

“We don’t want to wait for implementation at European level,” said Chancellor Kurz last week.

An EU immunity passport is expected to cover travel only and will not be rolled out until June or July at the earliest.

The European Union has unveiled a plan to set up a travel certificate.

“With this digital certificate we aim to help member states reinstate the freedom of movement in a safe, responsible and trusted manner,” said the European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen.

It will show “whether the person has either been vaccinated, or has a recent negative test, or has recovered from Covid, and thus has antibodies.”

In Austria it is also expected to allow people to attend bars/restaurants, events and fitness centres.

The Health Minister, Rudolf Anschober, is overseeing the project and his department has already started work on the legal preparations.

The tourism industry has welcomed the move with the Austria Tourism Minister, Elisabeth Köstinger, saying the plan would allow Austrians to head abroad and people to visit Austria again.

“A user-friendly digital solution that provides information about vaccinations, test results or infection is the key to being able to travel again,” she said.

However use of such a passport for international visitors depends on whether they are allowed to visit Austria in the first place and what quarantine requirements may be in place.

Foreign holidays for UK citizens this summer is looking increasingly unlikely.

We have looked at the situation in some detail in this related article:

Austrian Alps in the summer

Austrian Alps in the summer. Image © PlanetSKI

The European Justice Commissioner, Didier Reynders, said the proposed digital certificate would be “for all EU citizens, their families when they’re leaving the EU or living abroad”.

“It’ll also be for the European Economic Area (EEA), because we want to work with Norway and Iceland,” he says, adding Switzerland will also be involved.

He says there is still a lot to do to put the digital certificate in place, but the aim is to get it up and running before the summer tourist season.

Tourism provides  27m jobs in Europe, and generates around 10% of the EU’s GDP.

Among the other ski nations in Europe Switzerland is in favour of such a certificate, but in Italy the government has not indicated its intentions.

France has expressed some reservations.

Sweden, which has announced its own plans for a digital ‘vaccine pass’, is broadly supportive of the EU plan.

Spain has already said it won’t restrict the right of entry to people who have been inoculated or tested negative.

Some argue that they would enable a minority to enjoy foreign travel without restrictions while others, such as young people who are not seen as a priority for inoculation, continue to face measures such as quarantine.

European Commission officials have made clear they want to avoid discrimination.

Iceland already allows entry to visitors across the EU’s passport-free Schengen area as long as they have proof of vaccination against Covid.

Now anyone will be let in as long as they have a vaccination certificate such as the World Health Organization’s “yellow card”.

Europe’s aviation industry has welcomed the European Commission’s proposal for a Digital Green Certificate system as a key step to support the restart of travel.

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The UK the Business Secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, has said the government was looking at the idea of vaccine passports and had been “discussing what the best way to proceed is”.

“We are having debates, discussions about travel… but I think what we also have to do is be driven by the data, we’ve got to see how coronavirus develops,” he said to the BBC.

P&O Cruises has said that anyone wanting to take its cruises around the British Isles this summer will need to have had two doses of the coronavirus vaccine.

It follows similar moves by a number of other holiday companies.

Cyprus has also said it will open its doors from May to UK tourists who have had both Covid jabs.

A petition asking the UK government not to introduce them has more than 300,000 signatures, meaning it will be considered for a debate by MPs.

It remains illegal for people from England to take a holiday abroad until at least May 17th.

In Scotland, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon agreed that foreign travel would “not be achievable before 17th May,” adding that “it may well not be possible for a further period after that”.

12% of the European population has been fully vaccinated so far.

In the UK more than 50% have received a first jab.

From the perspective of UK travellers perhaps the most important aspect is not the digital passport itself, f but whether international travel to Europe will be allowed with rising cases of Covid-19 and a poor vaccine roll out in Europe