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Why Denmark’s Corona Passport is more of a promise than a plan

Lennards says IBM could have a pilot passport ready to go in a week and could easily roll out the project nationwide in a matter of months, largely thanks to the country’s combination of centralized health information and a Unique online identity authentication system, called NEM-ID, that citizens already used for banking, taxes and communicating with the government.

Figuring out exactly how the passport will be deployed promises to be stickier, however. In order to fully reopen the economy, business leaders like Søltoft are pushing for the passport to include more than just vaccine status – that is, to treat covid negativity or previous infection on an equal footing. with vaccination. “People need to understand that a corona passport is not just for certification of vaccines. It should also include negative test results and indicate whether you are immune because you had the virus and made a recovery, ”she says.

“Concerned about technology, not health”

But the implications for public health of such an approach worry some scientists. Allan Randrup Thomsen, a virologist at the University of Copenhagen, thinks the passport is a good idea in general, but is concerned about treating a negative test as the equivalent of a vaccine – as well as other aspects plan.

“Until there, [the initiative] was mostly concerned with technology and not the limits of health, ”he says. “But as a virologist, I can see that there are holes.”

“I know business has a vested interest … but it’s always serious, especially in the current situation where we’re trying to get everyone vaccinated.”

Even with a high degree of effectiveness, for example, vaccines leave a large segment of the inoculated people vulnerable to infection. “A passport can help open a medium-sized venue like a theater, but it’s a lot riskier with a music festival like Roskilde,” he says, referring to an annual event that is one of the biggest festivals of this type in Europe. “Maybe it’s 90% effective, but if there are 100,000 people there, there are still 5,000 people who will not be protected, even if they have the passport.”

He is also concerned about the leak variants such as the South African and Brazilian strains, which have been shown to be resistant to certain vaccines; not all inoculations are the same and the covid is constantly changing. “In some cases, the vaccine has to be combined with a negative test,” he says. “And when traveling to countries with certain variants, I still wouldn’t rule out isolation. I know companies have a vested interest in this not happening and some will say it is a minority of cases. But it is still serious, especially in the current situation where we are trying to get everyone vaccinated.

And even if the Corona Passport is deployed, Denmark cannot act alone. If normality is to be restored in international travel, other countries will have to accept the document – and perhaps launch their own certifications. On Monday, Greece and Israel signed an agreement that allows vaccinated citizens to travel between the two countries; Sweden and the UK have announced certification programs to allow their citizens to travel during the summer, and the European Union has said it hopes to generate a uniform set of certification standards among member states. But France and Germany have so far opposed passports over privacy concerns, and in places like the United States, such plans can be thwarted by a lack of centralized health information.

As a small country with a high degree of digital literacy, Denmark does not face the same challenges. But as Søltoft from Danish industry points out, less tangible values ​​also work in its favor. On the one hand, she says, “people have great trust in each other. We trust our authorities and others. It also helps Denmark get used to being at the forefront when it comes to global issues like climate change and gender equality. “We’re so open to the rest of the world,” adds Søltoft. “So if we can lead the way, we would like to do it.”

This story is part of the Pandemic technology project, supported by the Rockefeller Foundation.

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