by Seth BUTERA May 18, 2021
As Covid-19 restrictions ease around the world, governments are rushing to produce digital and old-fashioned documents to confirm vaccination, permit traveling inside and outside borders and to enable entry to public places.
One thing is for sure: Vaccine passports are here and for now they appear asthe only way to revive international travel and to open other activities including mass-attendance events.
Deciding which, when and where such documents must be issued, how they’re used or look and who controls them is triggering controversy among lawmakers, business leaders, law enforcement, ethicists and health officials.
Covid status certificates to help reopen society entail, according to Great Britain’s Equality and Human Rights Commission, the risk of discrimination against some groups.
Such passports to prove who is vaccinated could help ease restrictions “in principle,” the organization has warned, “but could create a two-tier society whereby only certain groups are able to fully enjoy their rights.”Although the U.N’s World Committee on Tourism Ethics is recommending that “Covid-19 certificates for international travel must be free, universally available and non-discriminatory,” the world is far from a universal standard certificate for crossing borders or for entering restaurants.
Universal, national or local, the document — whatever its presentation in paper or virtual — is fraught with dangers from forgery to politicization and manipulation, according to experts.
The document closest in spirit with such widespread coverage would be the certificate known as the Digital Green Pass that the European Union is aiming to start issuing by June 21 and to be used by all the member countries.
The program is now in a pilot face with more than a dozen E.U. countries participating.
The vaccine certificate, or “new platinum card of the Covid age,” as the New York Times calls it, will allow people who have been vaccinated against the coronavirus to travel more freely, with each nation deciding which travel restrictions to waive and which to keep.
Meanwhile, many countries can’t afford to wait for the Digital Green Pass or any other such document and have been developing their own versions, opening the door to new ethical quandaries and to practical problems including the danger of fake documents.
In Denmark, one of the leaders in issuing the certificate, people have been using the “Coronapas” to access bars, restaurants, and hairdressers since early April. Estonia, known as one of the most digitized nations, uses a QR code connected to citizens’ medical information in order to permit foreign travel.
The ethical dilemmas worrying international institutions and ethicists relate to how to avoid any form of discrimination when using a Covid certificate not only to travel but to access services.
As many countries have so far not been unable to vaccinate all their population, the danger is real for people from some ethnic minority groups, migrants, and those from lower socio-economic groups, among others.
“No shirt, no shoes, no vaccine — no service,” is how USA Today puts it. “The notion that a ‘passport’ could separate the vaccinated from the unvaccinated has sparked fears of a dystopian future where a person’s health decisions would limit where they could travel, where they could shop, what events they could attend, and whether they would be asked to wear a mask.”
With many countries working on their own formulas to welcome back visitors and restart tourism, the U.N. Committee of Tourism Ethics has been assessing “the implications health certificates might have on tourism ethics.”
On the other hand, as the Covid vaccine passports become a reality, the forgery of such documents does as well. Police departments in various countries are warning that fake coronavirus vaccine certificates already are becoming a growing problem.
Police officials in Germany revealed that criminals had begun to sell illicit proof of Covid-19 vaccinations and that the problem looked set to linger.
According to the warning, “potentially infectious individuals could use the forgeries to escape travel quarantine requirements or access services that otherwise require negative coronavirus tests and spread the virus,” Dutch DW News reported.
The BBC also reported that “Covid-19 vaccines, vaccine passports, and faked negative test papers are being sold on the darknet