Australia

Here’s how vaccine passports could work for overseas travel and domestic use in Australia

But it is unclear when the passports will be put into use for overseas travel with international borders still closed. 

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It is also not clear when the certificates would be rolled out for domestic use to unlock potential privileges such as allowing people to attend venues or events.

Here is what we know so far about how vaccine certificates could work. 

Vaccine passports for international travel

The vaccine passport is expected to be available for international travel either on the traveller’s phone or in a printed form. 

Tourism Minister Dan Tehan on Wednesday said the final details of the vaccine passport were being worked through.

“We are in the process of planning that – so that in the coming weeks we will have a system up and ready,” he told reporters. 

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He indicated this would help facilitate both the return of outbound and inbound international travel for Australians when vaccination thresholds reach 80 per cent.

“Australians will be able to travel overseas again and Australians will be able to return home in greater numbers,” he said.

The passport would consist of a document containing personal information – like what is on a passport – with a QR code.

SBS News understands Australians coming back into the country won’t need to display the document because it will be linked to an individual’s passport.

An Australian going overseas wanting to use documentary evidence would get access to an international app and use a digital seal or a QR code that can be scanned overseas. 

The certificates would be able to prove vaccine status internationally; and recognise vaccines approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration, such as the AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

‘It’s not just about crossing borders’

Biometric and identity expert Ted Dunstone said implementing the vaccine passport for international travel presented a complex challenge, with difficulties remaining around providing proof of vaccination overseas.

“There’s a very big jigsaw puzzle of technology, policy and other considerations that need to fit together,” he told SBS News.

“It’s not just about crossing borders. Crossing borders is part of the story but when I’m in a country, if I want to go to a cafe or do anything, I’m going to need to be able to present whatever credentials.” 

In France, people now need a health pass – or proof of vaccination – to gain access to restaurants, bars, museums and sports venues. 

In the United States, different rules also already apply for vaccinated and unvaccinated international arrivals entering the country. 

People who have had vaccines approved by the World Health Organisation are able to self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms and get tested three to five days after arriving.

However, those who are unvaccinated must self-quarantine for seven days following their arrival.

Mr Dunstone also said concerns remain about the potential for these systems to become targets of fraud or a black market for certificates.

“None of these systems are fool proof and they all come with trade-offs,” he said.

Vaccine certificates for domestic use

The federal government is also exploring how vaccine certificates could provide proof of vaccination via check in aps, like ones currently used to scan QR codes for entry into venues.

This would allow the vaccine certificate to display info for a venue to show whether an individual has been fully jabbed, not fully jabbed or exempt.

Mr Tehan said the domestic system was aimed at making it easier for Australians to display proof of vaccination across Australia.

“We will be looking at developing a QR code which works with state and territory apps so where you are required to prove you’ve got vaccination certificate you’ll be able to do so in a very simple way,” he said.

“It will also mean when you’re going to other events, whether it be concerts or the theatre that you’ll be able to demonstrate quite clearly your vaccination certification.”

When will the vaccination passports become necessary

The government has indicated overseas travel will resume once states hit the 80 per cent vaccination threshold and when a robust home quarantine system is established.

Domestically, the reopening plan based on 70 per cent to 80 per cent vaccine thresholds also marks the time when lockdowns are set to be phased out.

Margy Osmond, CEO of the Transport and Tourism Forum said the industry welcomed the progress towards the proof of vaccination certificates.

“We think it’s very much a go-er but the issue will be also giving businesses sufficient time to prepare for the demand when we do open and people go I’ve got my vac pass and I’m off,” she told SBS News.

Labor’s health spokesperson Mark Butler said businesses were desperate for certainty around the plan.

“Business is ready to go, there is demand for international passports from our airlines, from other countries, but we don’t have a plan from Scott Morrison to actually make it work,” he told reporters.

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