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China begins virus passport scheme to up international tourism

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A health worker takes a mouth swab sample from a journalist for Covid-19 nucleic acid tests, nine hours before the second plenary session of the Fourth Session of the 13th National People Congress at the Huabin International hotel in Beijing on March 8, 2021. AFP

China begins virus passport scheme to up international tourism

China has launched a health certificate programme for Chinese international travellers, leading the world in plans for so-called virus passports.

The digital certificate, which shows a user’s vaccination status and virus test results, is available for Chinese citizens via a programme on Chinese social media platform WeChat that was launched on March 9.

The certificate is being rolled out “to help promote world economic recovery and facilitate cross-border travel”, a foreign ministry spokesman said.

However, while the certificate is meant for travel in and out of China, it is currently only available for use by Chinese citizens and it is not yet mandatory.

There is also no indication authorities in other countries will use it when Chinese travellers go abroad.

Nevertheless, the certificate, which is also available in paper form, is thought to be the world’s first known “virus passport”.

The US and Britain are among countries currently considering implementing similar permits.

The EU is also working on a vaccine “green pass” that would allow citizens to travel between member countries and abroad.

China’s programme includes an encrypted QR code that allows each country to obtain a travellers’ health information, state-run Xinhua News Agency reported on March 9.

“QR health codes” within WeChat and other Chinese smartphone apps are already required to gain entry to domestic transport and many public spaces in China.

The apps track a user’s location and produce a “green” code – synonymous with good health – if a user has not been in close contact with a confirmed case or has not travelled to a virus hotspot.

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