Greece Announces Vaccine Passport ‘Trial Run’ System With Israel

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis prepare for a press conference after their meeting in the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem on February 8, 2021. (Photo by menahem kahana / POOL / AFP) (Photo by MENAHEM KAHANA/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
MENAHEM KAHANA/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Greece and Israel agreed to a coronavirus vaccine passport “trial run” scheme, the countries’ leaders announced in Jerusalem.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has been one of the leading voices in the European Union pushing for the adoption of vaccine passports, as the tourism industry upon which his country thrives has all but collapsed during the pandemic.

At a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Greek leader said on Monday: “We need to facilitate travellers once they provide easy proof of vaccination and this is what we intend to do with Israel.”

“I expect what we will be doing with Israel to be a trial run for what we can do with other countries,” Mitsotakis added in comments reported by Ekathimerini.

Mr Netanyahu said that the scheme between the two countries would allow travel “without any limitations, no self-isolation, nothing” for those who can prove that they have been inoculated against the virus.

Tourism is at the backbone of the Greek economy, employing about a fifth of all workers in the country. The industry was incredibly hard hit by the Chinese coronavirus last year, seeing revenues drop from around 15 billion euros in 2019 to just over three billion euros in 2020.

While the European Union has said that it is “premature” to introduce bloc-wide vaccination passports, Margaritis Schinas, the European Commission’s vice-president, said last month that it is time for the EU to begin to “recognise” vaccine passports.

The bloc’s health commissioner, Greek politician Stella Kyriakides, also revealed that the EU is currently in “active discussion” as to how to adopt such a scheme.

Several member states have already announced their intentions to implement the scheme, including Spain, Iceland, and Denmark, the latter of which is expected to launch the world’s first such passport later this month.

On Sunday, Britain’s Vaccine Minister Nadhim Zahawi claimed that the government would not implement a vaccine passport system, saying that it would be “discriminatory” in nature.

However, the government is currently funding two projects to create digital QR code-based vaccine passports, including one from Logifect, which is expected to be launched next month.

While the UK has been reticent to endorse the idea publicly, sources within government told The Telegraph that officials are considering ‘numerous’ options for vaccine passports. Government minister Grant Shapps has said the government is discussing the possibility of an “internationally recognised” corona passport.

Travel industry leaders have begun pressuring the government to implement vaccination passports in the hopes of saving the sector.

The chief executive of Saga Travel, Nick Stace, said that it would help the British people “be among the first people in the world to travel the world again”, adding that it would prop up the government’s post-Brexit vision of a “Global Britain”.

Others have warned of the implications that it would have on personal freedoms and privacy rights, including civil liberties watchdog Big Brother Watch, which has previously said: “Vaccine passports would create the backbone of an oppressive digital ID system and could easily lead to a health apartheid that’s incompatible with a free and democratic country.

“They’d normalise identity checks, health inspections and increase state control over citizens.”

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here @KurtZindulka

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