The federal government is reportedly sticking with its plan to launch an internationally-recognised vaccine passport system as early as October, with Canberra actively discussing how to integrate COVID-19 jab status with check-in apps already used by the states and territories.
The Age reports the federal government intends to unveil international COVID-19 vaccination status certificates in a matter of weeks, marking what could be the next step towards the reopening of Australia’s international border.
Such passports would prove a traveler’s vaccination status when attempting to leave the country, and could feasibly list the vaccination status of Australians hoping to return from abroad.
The federal government’s eventual goal is to partner such vaccine passports with home quarantine, opposed to the current requirement for returning travelers to spend two weeks in hotel quarantine once landing in Australia.
The proposed vaccine passports would be available in hard-copy form or through a holder’s phone, with discussions underway over the use of QR codes to complement the system.
The federal government previously honed in on the ‘Visible Digital Seal’ technology touted by the International Civil Aviation Organisation.
In addition, Australian vaccine certificates, available via Medicare through a holder’s MyGov account, can already be added to a user’s digital wallet through Apple Wallet or Google Play.
In a statement provided to the paper, a spokesperson for Employment Minister Stuart Robert said further information on the passport scheme will be revealed soon.
Home quarantine a major goal
Appearing on Sky News on Tuesday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said transitioning to safe home quarantine systems was a vital step towards a reopened border.
“To enable Australians to travel again – overseas, vaccinated Australians, for vaccinated Australians to come to Australia, for people to be able to move around – then home quarantine needs to work,” Morrison said.
South Australia has already launched a home quarantine trial for people returning from NSW and Victoria, implementing geolocation and facial recognition technology to ascertain the location of those isolating at home.
The Prime Minister also flagged his enthusiasm for vaccination certificates being used domestically, as Australia claws its way to the vaccination rate thresholds at which lockdowns and border closures will be avoided for lighter public health interventions.
Domestic restrictions for vaccinated travelers should be lifted first, said Morrison, who received an exemption from the ACT’s normal quarantine requirements after visiting Sydney over the weekend.
When you get to 80 per cent [vaccination rates], it says that domestic restrictions on vaccinated persons should be lifted,” he said.
“We’re not talking about willy-nilly movement of people who are unvaccinated across the country.
“We’re not talking about planeloads of COVID going from one state to the next, that’s a nonsense.
“That’s not what is under contemplation, and I don’t think any premier thinks that’s the case.”
The QR code-reading apps which are used by state contact tracing teams will also “need to be able to work to show whether someone has been vaccinated or not,” he added.
“We’re working with the states and territories to enable that.”
Existing state and territory property laws will enable business owners to refuse service to vaccinated patrons if they see fit, Morrison said.
With states and territories assessing how the existing vaccine certificates may be integrated into their check-in apps, all eyes are on the national vaccination rollout.
As of Monday, just over 39% of the eligible Australian population over 16 has been fully vaccinated.