Iceland has issued its first vaccination “certificates” to facilitate travel for people vaccinated against COVID-19, authorities told AFP on Tuesday, becoming one of the first countries to do so as the question divides the members of the European Union.
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Some 4,800 people who have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine are currently eligible for these digital certificates after the launch of a dedicated online service last Thursday, the Ministry of Health told AFP.
“The aim is to facilitate the movement of people between countries, so that individuals can present a vaccination certificate during border controls and thus be exempted from border restriction measures in accordance with the rules of the country concerned”, according to the ministry.
For Icelandic holders, the usefulness of these certificates remains for the time being essentially theoretical as long as their value is not recognized internationally.
But if they are put in place, Iceland does plan to let in unchecked holders of vaccine certificates from EU member countries or the European Economic Area, or even those put in place by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Iceland is not a member of the EU, but is part of the Schengen free movement area – now de facto restricted by numerous anti-COVID measures.
The establishment of such vaccination certificates or “passports” is currently the subject of discussions within the EU, but without consensus.
Countries like Greece are pushing in this direction to save the tourism sector, but the discussions are considered premature by several countries like France and Germany.
These underline the small proportion of the vaccinated population and the uncertainties still surrounding the effect of the vaccine on the transmission of the virus.
In mid-January, the WHO emergency committee said it was opposed “for the moment” to the introduction of certificates as a condition of entry into a country for international travelers.
“We do not yet know if those who are infected after vaccination are less likely to transmit the disease to others or not”, also recognize the Icelandic health authorities on their official website.
Due in particular to strict border control measures and sequencing of all positive cases, the epidemic has been under control in Iceland for several weeks. Last week, fewer than five daily infections were recorded in a country of 365,000 inhabitants.