(CNN) — The door to summer is slowly creaking open in Europe, and for those who want to stroll through it to take a vacation amid ongoing Covid restrictions, the key may soon be at hand.
While borders are likely to remain closed in coming weeks, the European Union is proposing to roll out a Digital Green Certificate, or vaccine passport that will allow those with the required armfuls of approved anti-Covid pharmaceuticals or antibodies from having had the virus, to travel freely. Negative tests could also be used to qualify.
It’s a measure eagerly anticipated by Europe’s prime tourism destinations, among them Portugal, Spain and Greece, where an absence of visitors over the past year has left gaping holes in national bank balances.
But will it be fair?
While the beleaguered tourism industry has delighted at the plan, which the EU is expected to vote on later in March, there are fears that patchy vaccination rollouts and supplies across Europe could mean some countries will enjoy more freedoms than others.
Likewise, with certain demographics targeted for early vaccination over others, some may be forced to remain at home, watching with jealousy as older citizens, many of whom will have received both jabs before the end of spring, jet off for their time in the sun.
And while the EU’s executive body, the European Commission, envisages its new Green Certificate simply as a document for allowing its citizens smooth transit across European frontiers, concerns have been raised that they will also become required for entry into restaurants, bars or other venues and events.
While the newly Brexited UK won’t be part of the program, the success of its vaccination program could see special travel deals struck with some EU countries that will allow Brits to bypass the need for certification.
Those EU citizens yet to qualify for vaccination — or unable to qualify — could be sidelined from the return to the normality most of us are eager to embrace unless they submit to frequent testing regimens.
A harbinger of this can already be seen at sea. Some major cruise companies are advertising summer departures that will only be open to passengers able to prove they’ve had a full complement of vaccines.
Anger, say some commentators, is inevitable.
“Only the over 50s will be vaccinated by this summer, so there may well be protests from younger people,” Kaye McIntosh, former editor of consumer magazine Health Which? and WI Life, tells CNN Travel. “It adds to the sense of generational unfairness created by austerity, house prices and student loans. I wouldn’t blame Gen Z for being angry.”
Norbert Hidi, a 24-year-old student from the Hungarian capital Budapest, is among those who expect to be going nowhere.
“To put it bluntly, it’s not fair,” Hidi tells CNN Travel. “Most of us won’t have been inoculated by the summer so that means we can’t travel or possibly go to bars or restaurants. The older generation have had the vaccines first because they are most at risk, but it shouldn’t mean they have more rights because of it.”
Brian Young, managing director at UK-headquartered G Adventures, a travel company that offers a range of options including tours for 18-to-thirtysomethings, is confident vaccine passports will help revive tourism worldwide, even if some will miss out this year.
“With international travel having been almost completely grounded for a year now, it’s essential that governments work together to find a uniformed solution to opening borders and allowing holidaymakers to start flying again,” Young tells CNN Travel.
“The announcement of the vaccine has seen a surge in confidence in the over 50s and, while vaccine passport proposals would pose a good solution as proof for those who have received the vaccine, it leaves a large portion of travelers, who have not taken or are yet to receive the vaccine, uncovered.”
Denmark will become the first nation in the world to roll out a “coronavirus passport” for foreign travel later this month. The idea of immunity passports has been debated amongst European countries since the start of the pandemic. But critics warn such passports could be discriminatory and could affect people’s right to keep their medical data private. CNN’s Nina Dos Santos reports.
Young says the EU decision to allow unvaccinated individuals to qualify for health passports with a negative test for antigens will help, but could still be a barrier for some to travel.
“The roll out of cheaper…