The EU and Dubai are moving towards digital Covid-19 ‘passports’ – what you should know

UAE-based airline Emirates and the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) have announced a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) which will position Dubai as one of the first cities in the world to implement digital verification of traveller medical records related to Covid-19 testing and vaccination.

Under the agreement, Emirates and the DHA will work to link the IT systems of DHA-approved laboratories with Emirates’ reservations and check-in systems.

This will  enable the efficient sharing, storing and verification of passenger health information related to Covid-19 infection, testing and vaccination, all in a secure and legally compliant manner, it said.

Emirates said that the project will commence immediately, with the aim of bringing it to “live” implementation to benefit travellers in the coming months.

“Dubai is a leading global air transport hub, as well as one of the world’s most progressive cities in the area of e-government services,” said sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Emirates’ chairman and chief executive.

“It’s a natural step to combine our capabilities to implement digital verification of Covid-19 medical records, which will also enable contactless document verification at Dubai Airport.

“This will tremendously improve the traveller experience, as well as the reliability, efficiency and compliance with entry requirements imposed by destinations around the world.”

Digital passports 

The European Commission will present a proposal in March on creating an EU-wide digital vaccination passport, Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said earlier this week..

During a five-hour video call last week, the EU’s 27 leaders focused on how to haul their nations back to a form of normalcy after a pandemic that’s claimed more than 500,000 lives and shut down large parts of their economies.

While there was broad support for certificates of some sort, leaders didn’t agree on the type of privileges they would grant, Bloomberg reported.

“We have all agreed that we need vaccine certificates,” German chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters after the talks on Thursday.

“In the future, it will certainly be good to have such a certificate but that will not mean that only those who have such a passport will be able to travel; about that, no political decisions have been made yet.”

The growing support for a digital certificate with common criteria such as vaccination, negative testing or immunity was helped by Merkel seeming to soften her stance on the matter, backing work on such a document, according to two people familiar with her remarks.

But von der Leyen urged the group to move faster before US tech companies fill the void.

“It is important to have a European solution because otherwise others will go into this vacuum,” she said at a press briefing.

“Google and Apple are already offering solutions to the World Health Organization. And this is sensitive information so we want to be very clear here that we offer a European solution,” she said.

Worldwide pass  

In November, global airline lobby IATA said it was working on a mobile app that will help travellers demonstrate their coronavirus-free status, joining a push to introduce so-called Covid passports to speed up the revival of international travel.

The Travel Pass will display test results together with proof of inoculation, as well as listing national entry rules and details on the nearest labs, according to the International Air Transport Association.

The app will also link to an electronic copy of the holder’s passport to prove their identity.

A test program will begin with British Airways parent IAG SA before arriving on Apple devices in the first quarter of 2021 and Android from April, IATA said.

Travellers will be able to share their status with border authorities or present a QR code for scanning.


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The EU and Dubai are moving towards digital Covid-19 ‘passports’ – what you should know