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EU vaccine chief hopes for tourism boost as he unveils Covid-19 ‘health passport’

The head of the European Commission vaccines task force, Thierry Breton, unveiled the first European "health passport" on Sunday, claiming he hopes Europe will have a summer season "comparable to last year".

EU vaccine chief hopes for tourism boost as he unveils Covid-19 'health passport'
It's hoped the health passport will open up Europe for tourism in 2021. Photo: Gabriella Clare Marino/Unsplash

The new health certificate should be available “within two to three months” in both digital and paper formats, Breton told RTL radio and TV channel LCI.

For the first time, people got a glimpse of the health passport that will be made available throughout the EU, validated by the 27 member states.

“From the moment we can be sure that every European who wants to be vaccinated will have fair access to the vaccine, as will be the case in the next two to three months – it will be good to have a health certificate that demonstrates your condition,” said Breton.

Implementing the health travel document is planned for June, which would allow travel to resume across Europe, he added.

This is supported by an acceleration of Covid-19 vaccination rollouts, with the European Union expected to deliver 420 million doses by mid-July.

READ ALSO: EU vaccine passports must prevent ‘discrimination’: European Commission

Describing the EU’s vaccination campaign, he said, “We have to shift to the next gear. This will be the price for having a tourist season that I hope will be comparable to last year’s, which in the end wasn’t so bad in the context we’re in.”

Included in the digital version of the passport will be a QR code, the state you’re from and whether you have been vaccinated or not. The paper version will contain personal details such as name and date of birth and also the passport number that is certified with a QR code, detailing whether you’ve been vaccinated and if you’ve been a carrier of the disease.

READ ALSO: Could ‘health passports’ kickstart travel around Europe?

“For those who have had neither the vaccine nor the disease and for whom a PCR test will be requested, you can see the status of your PCR test,” he added.

The EU’s vaccination scheme has been dogged by delays and shortfalls, with controversy over AstraZeneca’s distribution of doses creating even more friction within the bloc.

After some countries paused the administration of AstraZeneca and later resumed the rollout, like Italy, other countries across Europe are currently not giving any of this firm’s doses to citizens, including Norway and Denmark.

But Breton insisted that any AstraZeneca vaccinations produced in the EU will stay there until the company delivers on its commitments.

READ ALSO: AstraZeneca vaccine ‘safe and effective’ against Covid-19, European Medicines Agency concludes

Member comments

  1. And yet the question remains…even if parents are vaccinated, what requirements will be placed for children for whom the vaccine is not available…

  2. Have been wishing for huge amounts of vaccine to be given to Italy!! This is a tragedy that is so solvable by an organized program. The EU BIG WIGS are to blame. The Italian people must be helped quickly!

  3. This is going to create a two-tiered society. If you are not vaccinated (through no fault of your own…the scarcity of vaccines, and focus on the elderly makes a huge portion of the population not able to get vaccinated) you will be burned with the time and expense of getting a PCR test, while those who are fortunate to be vaccinated not only get that benefit, but don’t have to spend more and time and money. Seems that the country needs a large percentage of the population vaccinated in order to make all this movement safe (same for the new April 26 opening) as we will otherwise end up in lockdown all over again. We all saw what summer travel did last year. This is all about grabbing the summer income and not about respecting the endless sacrifice we’ve all gone through with endless lockdowns. And, now, the punishment of those who can’t even get a vaccine. At the very least those PCR tests better be free.

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TRAVEL

Could Oslo-Copenhagen overnight train be set for return?

A direct overnight rail service between the Norwegian and Danish capitals has not operated since 2001, but authorities in Oslo are considering its return.

Norway’s transport minister Knut Arild Hareide has asked the country’s railway authority Jernbanedirektoratet to investigate the options for opening a night rail connection between Oslo and Copenhagen.

An answer is expected by November 1st, after which the Norwegian government will decide whether to go forward with the proposal to directly link the two Nordic capitals by rail.

Jernbanedirektoratet is expected to assess a timeline for introducing the service along with costs, market and potential conflicts with other commercial services covering the route.

“I hope we’ll secure a deal. Cross-border trains are exciting, including taking a train to Malmö, Copenhagen and onwards to Europe,” Hareide told Norwegian broadcaster NRK.

The minister said he envisaged either a state-funded project or a competition awarding a contract for the route’s operation to the best bidder.

A future Oslo-Copenhagen night train rests on the forthcoming Jernbanedirektoratet report and its chances of becoming a reality are therefore unclear. But the Norwegian rail authority earlier this year published a separate report on ways in which passenger train service options from Norway to Denmark via Sweden can be improved.

“We see an increasing interest in travelling out of Norway by train,” Jernbanedirektoratet project manager  Hanne Juul said in a statement when the report was published in January.

“A customer study confirmed this impression and we therefore wish to make it simpler to take the train to destinations abroad,” Juul added.

Participants in the study said that lower prices, fewer connections and better information were among the factors that would encourage them to choose the train for a journey abroad.

Norway’s rail authority also concluded that better international cooperation would optimise cross-border rail journeys, for example by making journey and departure times fit together more efficiently.

The Femahrn connection between Denmark and Germany, currently under construction, was cited as a factor which could also boost the potential for an overland rail connection from Norway to mainland Europe.

Night trains connected Oslo to Europe via Copenhagen with several departures daily as recently as the late 1990s, but the last such night train between the two cities ran in 2001 amid dwindling demand.

That trend has begun to reverse in recent years due in part to an increasing desire among travellers to select a greener option for their journey than flying.

Earlier this summer, a new overnight train from Stockholm to Berlin began operating. That service can be boarded by Danish passengers at Høje Taastrup near Copenhagen.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about the new night train from Copenhagen to Germany

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