South Korea introduces digital vaccine passports

written by Hannah Dowling | April 1, 2021
Korean Air Airbus A380-861 at HKG (Source: Wikimedia Commons/Aero Icarus).

South Korea announced on Thursday that it will issue digital COVID-19 ‘vaccine passports’ to all citizens who have received their vaccine, in a major step that could see the return of international travel.

The concept of digitised health credentials has been touted in the industry for many months, with many believing it to be the ideal way to provide accurate, verifiable and up-to-date information of COVID test results and vaccination status.

The concept was born out of many nations and airlines requiring passengers to present a negative COVID-19 test before travel, and many also stating in the future they will ask for the same in relation to vaccination status.

Today, South Korean Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said the government will be launching a new mobile app this month, which will allow citizens to show digital proof of vaccination in instances where such proof might be required, such as for international travel.

“The introduction of a vaccine passport or ‘Green Pass’ will only allow those who have been vaccinated to experience the recovery to their daily lives,” Chung told a government meeting, adding the app uses blockchain technology to prevent counterfeit.

Earlier this week, Japan also announced that it has developed a mobile app, linked to the government’s vaccination program, which will allow citizens to access their digital vaccine passports.

Japan’s app also stores COVID-19 test results and is due to be rolled out in April, for use by both Japanese citizens and foreign travellers.

Several other countries, including China and Denmark, have also rolled out their own digital health passport technologies for their citizens, while other countries, including Greece and Iceland, have already opened their borders to travellers who can prove they have been vaccinated.

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Meanwhile, multiple global bodies, including the IATA and ICAO, are working on their own technologies that hold and transfer verified health documentation.

In mid-March, US airlines and industry groups joined together to pen a letter to the White House in an attempt to introduce a uniform approach to verifying COVID vaccination and testing status.

The US airline industry hopes the US government will announce a standardised approach to verifying vaccination status, and have raised fears that not doing so will lead to confusion and greater impact on the recovery of the aviation industry.

The letter said: “It is crucial to establish uniform guidance” and “the US must be a leader in this development”.

The letter argued that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention should take a leading role in defining how health credentials should be verified, stored, and shared.

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