France First EU State to Test Digital Coronavirus Travel Passport

TOPSHOT - A woman wearing a face mask walks as a French national flag flies on the Eiffel Tower in background in Paris on May 11, 2020 on the first day of France's easing of lockdown measures in place for 55 days to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, …
PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP via Getty Images

France has become the first member-state in the European Union to trial a digital travel certificate displaying coronavirus test results, which will later be upgraded to include vaccination data.

The TousAntiCovid mobile phone app is part of the French government’s digital health infrastructure for contact tracing and has been enhanced to include information on a traveller’s negative test result for the Chinese coronavirus.

The French government said, according to L’Express, that the app will store a digital “certified negative or positive test proof” and “a certificate of recovery from Covid-19”. From April 29th, it will also be capable of containing the vaccination certificate, though the current uptake of the vaccine is low, less than 20 per cent.

“France is the first country [in the EU] to make this feature available to citizens” in a digital format, French Digitial Secretary of State Cédric O said, but added that for those who do not want the app, it would still be possible to print the results off in the form of a scannable QR code.

It may also be used domestically for large events like concerts or festivals, but not for entering common public spaces like restaurants, according to The Guardian.

The scheme is part of a wider programme by the European Union to open up the internal borders of its 27 member-states by Summer. The French app is expected to be trialled this week on flights to Corsica, a French territory off the coast of Italy, and to France’s other overseas departments and regions.

France wants the scheme to be greenlit for travel across the bloc, but it would take the authorisation of the European Commission, the EU’s executive branch, which is expected in June.

Brussels scaled back the scope of its proposed “green pass”, with member states agreeing any such certificate would not allow blanket free travel across the bloc, leaving national governments to decide on entry restrictions for themselves. The EU also decided that the pass should not be treated as a travel document so as to “reinforce the principle of non-discrimination, in particular, towards unvaccinated persons”.

The progress on Europe’s immunity certificate comes amidst growing opposition to similar proposals in the UK.

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove is overseeing a review of immunity passports, with the findings expected in June. Like the French model, it could show whether a person had tested negative, was vaccinated, or had natural immunity after having the Chinese virus.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has vacillated on whether a domestic pass would be needed for going to the pub or other common public venues like restaurants, though it could be used to enter non-essential businesses, like sports arenas, concert halls, and theatres.

Such is the scale of the growing rebellion within Boris Johnson’s own party over vaccine passports, as they have come to generally be known, that it has been reported MPs have been told that if approved by parliament, the measure would be time-limited. The Liberal Democrats and the Labour leader have voiced their opposition, as have church leaders, the hospitality industry, and the UK’s equalities watchdog.

In an open letter to the prime minister, over 1,200 church leaders called domestic immunity certificates “one of the most dangerous policy proposals” in British history, which they warned could “bring about the end of liberal democracy as we know it and to create a surveillance state in which the government uses technology to control certain aspects of citizens’ lives”.

“We risk creating a two-tier society, a medical apartheid in which an underclass of people who decline vaccination are excluded from significant areas of public life,” church leaders said.

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