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9 Mar, 2021 09:36

China rolls out Covid-19 pass for international travel as global debate over a common health passport heats up

China rolls out Covid-19 pass for international travel as global debate over a common health passport heats up

Beijing has launched a certificate that verifies Covid-19 status for citizens traveling abroad. The initiative comes amid a raging debate about the global adoption of a health passport.

An image of the document shared online shows that it contains passport information as well as Covid-19 test results and vaccination details. The certificate will be available in digital and paper form. 

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Monday that the world economy is in “urgent need of recovery” and suggested that the ID would help facilitate the resumption of international travel. 

Beijing also signaled that it was open to the idea of adopting a globally-recognized document that shows Covid-19 test results and vaccination status. 

“China is willing to discuss with other countries the establishment of the mutual recognition mechanism” about the virus to “actively promote the construction of healthy, safe and orderly personnel exchanges,” foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said.

It’s not yet clear which, if any, countries have agreed to recognize the Chinese certificate. It’s also unknown if Beijing will relax quarantine restrictions for those who have the new ID. 

Several countries have already eyed similar Covid-19 certificates, both for domestic purposes and international travel. The European Union is planning on introducing a passport, called a “Digital Green Pass,” that would allow vaccinated individuals to travel freely within the bloc. 

The UK has also signaled that it is looking to create a health ID. Former prime minister Tony Blair has been a vocal promoter of the scheme, arguing that the creation of a digital document showing Covid-19 status was “inevitable” and that it would help lift restrictions on movement. A petition calling for the UK to reject the idea of issuing Covid-19 passports has garnered more than 270,000 signatures. Critics say that such passports would be discriminatory, an invasion of privacy, and ineffective at controlling the disease. Currently there have been no tests conducted to show that Covid-19 vaccines slow or stop transmission of the virus. 

Despite public misgivings, several airlines have expressed support for a global health ID. Singapore Airlines announced on Monday that its flights to London will begin using a mobile app that verifies passengers’ Covid-19 status, as part of a pilot program that could potentially see global adoption. 

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