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France to trial digital vaccine passport scheme

France is taking part in a month-long trial of a vaccine passport for air travel.

The launch of a month-long pilot for Air France passengers was announced by transport minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari on Thursday (11 March). 

Under the scheme, passengers travelling to the French Caribbean territories of Martinique and Guadeloupe, will be able to use the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) AOKpass app to prove either a COVID-19 vaccination certificate or negative test result.

Speaking to the French radio station RMC radio on Thursday, Djebbari said the scheme aimed to reduce checks that are drastically slowing boarding and arrival procedures.

“It could offer a preview, or at least a large-scale test, of a future travel pass,” he added. 

WHY IT MATTERS

Vaccine passports, also known as vaccine certificates, have been a hot topic as countries worldwide roll out mass vaccination programmes. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has called for a “global standard to securely record digital proof of vaccination”.  

However there have been some concerns that vaccine passports could lead to discrimination and inequalities.  Research organisation, the Ada Lovelace Institute carried out a review, which concluded the roll-out of vaccine passports is not currently justified.

THE LARGER CONTEXT 

The IATA has also developed a Travel Pass app, which allows passengers to prove they are safe to fly by displaying a. negative COVID-19 test result. Singapore Airlines will be the first to trial the app starting with passengers flying from London to Singapore from 15-28 March.

Last month, Israel became the first country to launch a digital domestic vaccine certificate. Its ‘Green Pass’ app indicates whether citizens have either been vaccinated or have presumed immunity after contracting the virus. The app can be used to gain access to public amenities such as gyms, hotels, theatres, and concerts. Greece and Cyprus plan to admit travellers from Israel who can prove their status with the Green Pass.

The European Commission has proposed plans for an EU-wide vaccine certificate, with the initial technical work intended to be completed within three months.  

Meanwhile, China has also launched a vaccine certificate for its citizens via a programme on Chinese social media platform WeChat. A foreign ministry spokesperson said the certificate aimed “to help promote world economic recovery and facilitate cross-border travel.”

ON THE RECORD 

Catherine Villar, SVP customer experience, Air France, said: “We are convinced that the changes we are all currently experiencing will change the way we travel in the long term and are committed to supporting all innovation projects that can help us meet these new challenges. “

Sébastien Bedu, product manager, airport services at MedAire, said: “We are very pleased to support Air France with their test of the ICC AOKpass. We look forward to the successful implementation of the solution so as to reach our collective industry goal of safely opening the skies once again.”

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