The launch of digital COVID-19 vaccination certificates, such as the European Union’s Digital COVID Certificate, is likely to cause chaos at airports and other transport hubs as staff will be tasked with assessing the validity of multiple documents, Robert Steffen, an emeritus professor of epidemiology at the University of Zurich and a frequent adviser to the World Health Organization (WHO), told Sputnik.
The EU’s digital certificate, which denotes if an individual has tested negative for COVID-19, has recovered from the disease, or has received a full vaccine dosing regimen, is set to launch in July.
However, Steffen, who spoke on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF), said that other organizations, such as the International Air Transport Association (IATA), had also created their own digital health certificates.
“Actually, I expect total chaos. This European Union plan to issue a certificate is very nice, but I’m aware of about three dozen such plans. Let me remind you that the IATA also issues a certificate, and then there are individual airlines … and every single country issues paper certificates and later on, also electronic certificates, and actually every vaccination center issues certificates. If I think of these poor teams at airport check-ins who have to understand whether such a certificate is legitimate or not, I do not envy them,” Steffen said.
Despite this view, the University of Zurich epidemiologist said that vaccinated individuals were, on the whole, safe to travel, given their low risk of contracting severe COVID-19 symptoms even if they become infected with the disease.
Steffen also said that it was vital to resume international travel to help support communities across the world that are overwhelmingly reliant on the tourism sector.
“If we claim that we should now wait, for instance, in Europe before we travel, until the entire African population has been vaccinated, I view that as an injustice, particularly also to the Africans, because in Africa, there are millions of people who are out of a job now in the tourism industry, and if the Europeans or others from industrialized countries are not coming … then they will just continue to suffer for months,” the academic said.
The EU gateway for the Digital COVID Certificate, which deals with the security and verification processes of the system, went live last week.
As many as 32 airlines have also signed up for the trial of IATA’s Travel Pass initiative, which provides a digital platform on which travelers can store their COVID-19 testing and vaccination data.
This year’s edition of SPIEF was held from June 2-5 in the Russian city of St. Petersburg. Rossiya Segodnya was an official media partner of the event.