China among first in the world to roll out Covid-19 vaccine passport

China is among the first in the world to issue a vaccine passport.
China is among the first in the world to issue a vaccine passport.PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING - China has rolled out an international vaccine health certificate in anticipation that it will be recognised by other countries soon, making global travel easier.

The country is among the first in the world to issue a vaccine passport that shows details of a traveller's Covid-19 inoculation, as well as nucleic acid and antibody test results.

Chinese citizens can register for the certificate on a WeChat mini programme launched on Monday (March 8), a day after Foreign Minister Wang Yi announced the initiative at his annual press conference.

The passport, available in both digital and paper formats, will help promote world economic recovery and facilitate cross-border travel, said the foreign ministry on Monday.

"The pandemic is still with us, but the world economy needs to be restarted and people-to-people exchanges resumed with no more delays," said ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian.

China is ready to discuss with other countries on establishing mutually recognised mechanisms for health codes, he said.

Several countries such as Denmark and Sweden are working on developing their own health passports. In Britain, more than 200,000 people have signed a petition that could be debated in Parliament against introducing a vaccine certificate, as it could be "used to restrict the rights of people who have refused a Covid-19 vaccine".

Meanwhile, the International Air Travel Association, which has 290 airline members, is launching a travel app that will allow immigration authorities and airlines to collect and share travellers' vaccination and Covid-19 test results.

Singapore Airlines will be the first carrier to put this app to use on its Singapore to London flights from March 15, and as many as 30 other airlines will trial the app in the next two months.

China's newly launched electronic health certificate comes with an encrypted QR code for governments to access personal information.

But it is not clear how useful this health code is currently, or which countries are in talks with Beijing to recognise its vaccine passport.

It still requires incoming travellers to complete a 14-day quarantine.

Among the proposals submitted by delegates at this year's on-going parliament sitting are several calling for a vaccine passport that could help restore travel and relax quarantine rules.

On the vaccine development front, China has approved 17 vaccine candidates for clinical trials, of which seven have entered phase three trials and four have been approved for use in the country.

China's Centre for Disease Control and Prevention said the country will reach herd immunity by the middle of next year after it vaccinates as much as 80 per cent of the population.

It is aiming to inoculate 560 million people by the end of June, and another 330 million by the end of the year, state media reported.