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ASEAN Leaders Mull Vaccine Passport

At last week’s meeting, economic ministers of the 10-member association considered ways to jump-start lagging regional travel

At last week’s Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Economic Ministers meeting, leaders of the ten member states discussed the idea of creating a common vaccine certificate to facilitate travel and economic recovery in the region.

According to reports by Nikkei Asia, the association’s members, which include Indonesia, Singapore, and the Philippines, discussed the idea of relaxing border restrictions for travelers who have been vaccinated.

“The economic ministers deliberated on the possibility of introducing a common digital vaccine certificate, especially to speed up the opening up of sectors most hard hit, such as the tourism industry,” said Malaysia’s trade minister Azmin Ali, according to the report.

“There is no timeline imposed but I believe if it can be finalized in the near future,” Ali said. “It will facilitate movements among ASEAN members.”

The idea of launching a regional travel pass for ASEAN member countries comes against a background of sluggish vaccine rollouts which are lagging behind Western countries, and the threat that Asia Pacific will be slow to reopen borders even after the inoculations are more widely available.

According to a new report by travel analytics firm Cirum published by Flight Global, authorities in Asia Pacific countries are not likely to reopen borders until at least 2022.

“Compared to single markets like Europe and US, Asia-Pacific has a more fragmented market where international travel recovery would be slow given the unparalleled approach taken at different countries to control the risk from travel,” said Joanna Lu, head of consultancy Asia at Cirium.

Meanwhile, the European Commission is proposing its own “digital green pass” for EU residence that would allow them to “move safely in the European Union or abroad – for work or tourism,” according to a tweet posted by Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the commission.

The EU pass will be submitted to the European Parliament on March 17 and discussed at a summit on March 24, with the aim of opening up travel by the end of June.