It is 'too soon' to consider bringing in Covid-19 vaccination passports, health officials say

Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, yesterday announced she will present plans for a Covid vaccination passport on March 17
It is 'too soon' to consider bringing in Covid-19 vaccination passports, health officials say

A BioNTech/Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine being prepared. File picture: PA

It is too soon to make plans for so-called vaccine passports, Irish health officials have said, despite moves being made at a European level to establish such a scheme.

Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, yesterday announced she will present plans for a Covid-19 vaccination passport on March 17.

The 'digital green pass' will include information on whether someone has received a Covid-19 vaccination, has been tested, or contracted the virus, and could see Europeans able to travel more freely by the summer.

Hopes for travel reopening

“The aim is to gradually enable them to move safely in the European Union or abroad — for work or tourism,” Ms von der Leyen said, sparking hopes of increased international travel in the months ahead.

However, deputy chief medical officer (CMO) Dr Ronan Glynn quickly poured cold water on the prospect, claiming it is "too early at this point to discuss the utility of it". 

Irish officials will be part of the discussions, but Dr Glynn said he anticipates some form of restrictions to be in place until the end of the year.

Ursula von der Leyen, photographed on a visit to Ireland in January 2020, announced yesterday that she will present plans for a Europe-wide Covid passport on St Patrick's Day. However, Irish health officials have poured cold water on the plan.  	Picture: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

Ursula von der Leyen, photographed on a visit to Ireland in January 2020, announced yesterday that she will present plans for a Europe-wide Covid passport on St Patrick's Day. However, Irish health officials have poured cold water on the plan.  Picture: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

Due to the pace of the vaccine rollout, a Covid passport is not an urgent issue here, he said.

Travel ban and quarantine

In terms of travel in Ireland at present, the focus is on incoming travel, with the justice minister set to bring a memo to cabinet this morning to ban visas from all countries that currently require mandatory quarantine, while the Seanad yesterday passed the legislation for hotel quarantining, which will now go to the President to be signed into law.

In terms of reopening society, in the coming weeks, a report on rapid antigen testing will be presented to Cabinet, Dr Glynn said. 

The Irish Examiner reported on Monday that a Cabinet memo outlined plans to use 15-minute antigen tests as part of the moves to reopen society.

Professor Mark Ferguson is in the beginning stages of the report and it is not due to be presented to the minister until mid-March, health officials said.

Rebooting the economy

As part of their efforts to reboot the economy in the months ahead, the Government is to apply for €850m in funding under the European Recovery and Resilience Fund. Spending priority will be given to projects that create jobs, drive balanced regional development, and can be completed in less than five years. The Cabinet committee for economic recovery met yesterday to discuss the economic programme for the coming months, with a focus on green and digital issues on the agenda.

The Government will publish a stability programme update next month, the national recovery and resilience plan will be published before the end of May, and the national economic plan, the revised national development plan, and the climate action plan will be published by June.

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