Matthew Lynn Matthew Lynn

Can the EU be trusted to introduce vaccine passports?

Ursula von der Leyen (Photo: Getty)

The contracts were badly drafted. The orders were late. Too few resources were made available for the scale of the task, and the regulators dithered and delayed. Even the most fanatical federalists such as Guy Verhofstadt have admitted the EU’s vaccine programme was little short of a catastrophe. But hey, what does that matter? Ursula von der Leyen has decided this is the moment to double down on the EU’s Covid-19 strategy, and launch a centralised vaccine passport. What could possibly go wrong? Well, er, as the EU’s vaccine fiasco has taught us, lots actually.

Von der Leyen has today tried to bounce back from her difficulties with the vaccine programme with a plan for EU-wide Covid passports. She told German lawmakers the Commission was planning a ‘digital green pass’ that would either say you have had the vaccine, or the results of a Covid test. With your papers all in order, like in the old war movies, you will then be able to move freely around the continent.

And yet is that really a good idea? Let’s leave aside for the moment the embarrassing lack of actual vaccines in the EU – so far the bloc has only administered 7 jabs per 100 people, compared to 31 in the UK, and 10 in wealthy and technologically advanced countries such as, er, Morocco or Turkey – which would seem to undermine the whole project. After all, you won’t be able to get your ‘green pass’ until you have actually had a shot of the vaccine, or at least a test, and the latter will expire within a few days. Still, presumably sooner or later that will be fixed. Even so, there are still two bigger problems.

First, vaccine passports will be a tricky technical challenge.

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