Australia plans digital pass for Covid-19 vaccinated travellers amid drop in cases in Victoria

Australia's international border has been mostly closed to non-residents since March last year.
Australia's international border has been mostly closed to non-residents since March last year.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SYDNEY (REUTERS, BLOOMBERG) - Australia announced it is developing a digital border pass to show the vaccination status of travellers in a step towards further reopening its international border.

The government awarded Accenture the tender to deliver the pass that will replace the current Covid-19 travel declaration form and incoming passenger card.

It will "support the safe reopening of Australia's international borders", Minister for Home Affairs Karen Andrews said in a statement.

"This will help us to welcome home increasing numbers of Australians, and welcome the tourists, travellers, international students, skilled workers and overseas friends and family we've all been missing during the pandemic."

Australia's international border has been mostly closed to non-residents since March last year to control the spread of the coronavirus, with anyone returning required to undergo 14 days of hotel quarantine.

The government has said it aims to increase travel to and from the nation once 80 per cent of the adult population is fully vaccinated. Currently that rate stands at about 34 per cent, according to Bloomberg's vaccine tracker.

Meanwhile, Australia’s Victoria state on Tuesday (Sept 14) reported an easing in new Covid-19 infections as it looks to accelerate the vaccination roll-out in Melbourne’s hardest-hit suburbs, the state capital.

A total of 445 new locally acquired cases were detected, down from the year’s high of 473 a day earlier. Two new deaths were reported.

Melbourne hopes to come out of an extended lockdown through higher vaccination rates after ditching a virus elimination strategy as officials struggle to quell an outbreak fuelled by the highly infectious Delta variant.

Nearly half of Australia’s 25 million population is in lockdown, including people in Sydney and Melbourne, its largest cities, and the capital Canberra, as the country grapples with a third wave of infections.

The federal government announced plans to move an additional 417,000 vaccine doses over the next three weeks for residents in Melbourne’s north and west, where most new infections are being detected. Pop-up hubs will be set up in schools, community centres and places of worship.

Europe is so far the only region where so-called vaccine passports are widely used. The International Air Transport Association, which represents almost 300 airlines globally, last month urged countries around the world to adopt the European Union's Digital Covid Certificate as the global standard for vaccine certification.

Qantas Airways, Australia's national carrier, has said only fully vaccinated passengers will be allowed on its overseas flights.