The document that could open overseas travel to nearly 1 billion

China has taken a significant step to recommencing international travel after it confirmed the rollout of its health certificate for those who have received a vaccination for Covid-19.

China's foreign ministry announced on Monday it had launched its version of a 'vaccine passport' just a day after Foreign Minister Wang Yi revealed the program to reporters on the sidelines of the 13th National People's Congress in Beijing.

It will be available to Chinese nationals and will be in the form of an encrypted QR code for authorities to verify. Paper versions will also be available.

A paper and digital version of the health certificate. Source: Foreign Ministry
A paper and digital version of the health certificate. Source: Foreign Ministry

How China's health certificate will open up travel

The certificate includes nucleic acid test and serum antibody results, vaccine inoculation and other information.

Addressing reporters on Monday evening, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said China was now willing to discuss the use of the scheme with other countries.

"China stands ready to discuss with other countries on establishing mutual recognition mechanisms for health codes information," he said.

"This will facilitate the issuance of visas, thus making cross-border travel much easier and contributing to the healthy, safe and orderly people-to-people exchanges."

China plans to inoculate at least 60 per cent of its population, equating to roughly 840 million people.

According to Chinese experts, the scheme could be trialled first with Hong Kong and Macau before Beijing gives the green light to begin the scheme with other countries, the Global Times reported.

China, which has successfully suppressed the virus, would only look to cooperate with countries with similar low levels of infection, Zhu Zhengfu, a member of the CPPCC National Committee told the publication.

Australian government exploring vaccine passport options

Australia is one country which too has successfully eradicated community transmission, and with Australian universities desperate for international students to return, it could be a plausible option to fast-track that process.

However the federal government has been reluctant to discuss the opening of Australia's border, with its border closure extended to at least June 17 earlier this month.

Secretary of the Department of Health, Professor Brendan Murphy, previously warned it was unlikely Australia would commence widespread international travel in 2021.

Yet Government Services Minister, Stuart Robert, previously revealed the government was actively reviewing vaccine passport options and their compatibility with other nations, while Prime Minister Scott Morrison has repeatedly stated he would be open to the development of certain travel bubbles.

PM Adern says Australia needs to work through what exactly a hotspot is and how it will be contained before travel can recommence. Source: AAP
Qantas has begun trialling a vaccine passport option. Source: AAP

When questioned by Yahoo News Australia over the government's willingness to be part of such a project with China and other nations, the Department of Health said it was "considering mechanisms for recognising an international digital immunisation certificate for COVID-19".

Yet a spokesperson said quarantine would still be a requirement for incoming travellers despite the implementation of a vaccine passport.

"Australia will require some form of quarantine in the near term even if proof of vaccination is provided. A vaccination is not viewed as a panacea or a complete substitute for other public health interventions; it is supplementary to other measures," they said.

Such a stance has been hinted at previously by Prof Murphy who has warned there is still not enough evidence to indicate whether of not the different vaccines being rolled out globally prevent transmission.

"If favourable data on vaccination continues to be published over time, this may trigger a decision as to whether there should be a scale back of other public health interventions," the spokesperson added.

Regardless, the concept of a virus passport is gaining momentum in Australia, with Air New Zealand announcing last month it was trialling a digital vaccination passport on flights between Auckland and Sydney from April.

Qantas has also been testing the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Travel Pass and CommonPass apps which will be trialled by returning Australians.

The airline recently stated it expected international travel to recommence in October, coinciding with the predicted completion date of the nation's vaccine rollout.

Earlier this month, Bali's governor revealed plans it intended to create 'green zones' in a bid to return tourists to the Indonesian island heavily dependent on incoming travel.

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