Frustrated by travel restrictions, Czechs welcome debate on EU vaccine passport

Illustrative photo: Anna Shvets/Pexels

As EU member states forge ahead with vaccinations, EU leaders are preparing to discuss an instrument that would facilitate travel within the alliance in the summer months – a common vaccine  passport or the “Digital Green Pass” to use the official EU lingo. The Czech Republic has supported these efforts, while stressing the need to avoid discrimination of certain groups of the population.

More than a year after the coronavirus pandemic first closed the country’s borders, many Czechs have become increasingly frustrated with the travel restrictions imposed by their own and other governments. Thousands of people are already booking summer holidays and have eagerly welcomed the idea of a vaccine passport which would allow them to travel with greater ease.

Czech Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček said the Digital Green Pass was a good idea and expressed the hope that EU leaders would find a workable solution, since the situation clearly called for something of the sort.

„If we are unable to reach agreement on a vaccine passport for the whole of the EU, then we will at least start negotiating with our immediate neighbours about a green pass for our region.“

Photo: ČTK / Slavomír Kubeš

At the same time the foreign minister expressed concern about possible discrimination of certain groups since not everyone can get vaccinated for health reasons or could be last in line for a vaccine because they are young and healthy.

This will be one of the many concerns aired at the EU debate next week, with critics arguing that vaccine passports will inevitably split EU citizens into two classes: a privileged, inoculated group with many rights and the other - without them.

While southern states dependant on tourism are vehemently defending the idea of a vaccine passport which would revitalize the tourist industry, others have warned that a vaccine pass could be premature because data on the efficacy of vaccines in preventing a person from carrying or passing on the virus is incomplete.

Another hurdle on the way to a Digital Green Pass is the rapid spread of more contagious Covid variants - the English, South African and Brazilian forms - and the possibility of future mutations which may require people to get booster vaccines in order to remain protected.

EC President Ursula von der Leyen brought up yet another concern this week saying the aim was for the Digital Green Pass  to  respect “data protection, security and privacy".

Under the current proposal the vaccine passport, which was presented to EU leaders in a video  debate, would include: a certificate on inoculation, the results of previous COVID-19 tests for those who haven't yet been inoculated and medical statements for those who have recovered from the disease and are presumed to be temporarily protected by antibodies.

The ability to address all the concerns surrounding the proposal and reach agreement  will decide on how the upcoming holiday season will unfold in the 27 member block. If no agreement is reached individual states will most likely start issuing their own vaccine passes, which may turn out to be chaotic and risky.