SA is on the brink of getting domestic vaccine passports. Here’s how they work elsewhere

Business Insider SA
International certificate of vaccination 30° isom
  • South Africa is due to get domestic vaccine passports soon.
  • In most countries that have set up similar systems, they are used to protect venues with lots of people, and encourage vaccine uptake.
  • Israel seems set to use its vaccine passes to encourage people to get booster shots.
  • England is keeping the system in reserve.
  • Here is how vaccine passports work in different parts of the world.
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Government's science advisors have signed off on restricting access to some South African venues only to those who have been vaccinated from about November. Health minister Joe Phaahla has been floating the idea, which seems to have been signed off on by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Soon, it seems, SA will have vaccine passports capable of being used to deny those who have not received their jabs from what was, before the pandemic, such mundane pleasures as going to a nightclub.

It will not be the first. Several countries have set up such schemes, with varying levels of intensity in their implementation.

See also | No vaccine, no access rules could work from November, govt hears from science advisors

Here is how vaccine passports work in other countries, from a nice-to-have to the only way to keep your job.

Italy: show immunity if you want to work

Italy this week linked vaccine passports to jobs. From 15 October employees – state and private both – now have to provide a recent negative coronavirus test, proof that they recently recovered from infection, or proof of vaccination if they want to work. 

Those who do not comply can't be fired, but are due to be suspended without pay.

The country's government says it has been on the front lines of Covid-19 and, with winter fast approaching, it is not taking chances.

England: a dramatic U-turn from passports for entertainment to no such plans

England (which sets its own policy on such matters, as do other parts that make up the United Kingdom such as Scotland and Wales) was all set to demand vaccine passports for entry to nightclubs and public gatherings of any kind. Then, in the space of a week, that went from the "best way" to get entertainment going again to being a bit too "show your papers", for the same health minister.

In the few days since that dramatic change of heart, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has put the idea back on the table again, as a "Plan B" if it looks like the country's health service will be overwhelmed.

Scotland and Wales: if you want to party

In Scotland and Wales, vaccine passports are due to be demanded for entry into nightclubs and big events from October.

When Wales says a big event, it means it: proof will be required for events of more than 10,000 people, or for "non seated" events of 500 people indoors or 4,000 outdoors.

Defining what exactly constitutes a nightclub appears to be the next frontier for the plan, with an assumption (but no official confirmation) that bars will have a hard time escaping the requirement. 

Australia: maybe for entertainment, in some places, or by some businesses 

Australians will soon have literal vaccine passports, QR codes linked to their passports that can be used for international travel. The status of domestic proof-of-vaccine initiatives is a little mixed, though.

As of earlier this month, it looked like the states of New South Wales and Victoria would demand proof of vaccination for entry to bars or major public events, and maybe to visit a hairdresser – but that would not apply in at least the capital.

Individual businesses throughout the country may, or may not, have the legal right to demand proof of vaccination as condition of entry. That will likely be the subject of quite a bit of wrangling.

France: the political success story

All kinds of hell broke out when France introduced its passe sanitaire and, in July, made it compulsory for those wishing access to museums, and anywhere more than 50 people could gather, then extended it to restaurants and domestic transport.

It was declared a gamble by President Emmanuel Macron, ahead of elections due in 2022, and the initial backlash was intense.

He won, arguably. Vaccination rates surged, especially among younger people at lower risk of Covid-19 who had less personal incentive to be vaccinated, and threatened to hold back herd immunity. 

Opinion polls also suggest the passport system is now quite popular among the majority of likely voters.

Israel: you'll need a booster to keep it

Israel's "green pass" system for access to entertainment venues has survived some furious legal challenges.

Now the country plans to make keeping such a pass contingent on getting a booster vaccine shot which, in a country using two-dose vaccines, means "fully vaccinated" will refer to three doses, and internal vaccine passports may be an important tool to coerce those less than enthusiastic about a third jab.

(Compiled by Phillip de Wet)

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