China launches ‘virus passport’
The digital certificate is aimed at boosting international travel, but it has sparked privacy concerns.
China has launched a health certificate programme for Chinese citizens travelling internationally, one of the first countries in the world to issue a “virus passport”.
The digital certificate, which shows a user’s vaccination status and virus test results, is available for Chinese citizens via a programme on Chinese social media platform WeChat that was launched on Monday.
The certificate is being rolled out “to help promote world economic recovery and facilitate cross-border travel”, a foreign ministry spokesman said.
The certificate, which is also available in paper form, is currently only for use by Chinese citizens and is not yet mandatory.
There is also no information on which countries China is working with to get the certificate recognised when Chinese travellers go overseas.
While Bahrain has already introduced a “vaccine passport”, the United States and the United Kingdom are among countries also considering implementing similar permits.
The European Union is also working on a vaccine “green pass” that would allow citizens to travel between member countries and abroad.
China’s programme includes an encrypted QR code that allows authorities to obtain a traveller’s health information, state media agency Xinhua reported on Monday.
“QR health codes” on WeChat and other Chinese smartphone apps are already required to gain entry to domestic transport and many public spaces in China.
The apps track a user’s location and produce a “green” code – synonymous with good health – if a user has not been in close contact with a confirmed case or has not travelled to a virus hotspot.
But the system has sparked privacy concerns and fears it marks an expansion of government surveillance.