Caixin
Mar 08, 2021 05:21 PM
CHINA

China Pushing for International Covid-19 Vaccine Recognition System

Wang Yi. Photo: Xinhua
Wang Yi. Photo: Xinhua

China plans to issue electronic health certificates and implement mutual recognition of other countries’ Covid-19 tests and vaccinations, its foreign minister said Sunday.

Beijing will also set up regional inoculation stations in other countries to help overseas Chinese nationals obtain coronavirus shots, Wang Yi said at a press conference.

The moves indicate that China may loosen some of its stringent travel restrictions for people who can prove they are either immune to the virus or not infected with it.

China has maintained strict border controls during the pandemic, shutting out people from severely affected countries and ordering entrants to undergo mandatory quarantines.

Speaking on the sidelines of the “Two Sessions,” China’s key annual political meetings, Wang said (link in Chinese) the country would push “electronic proof-of-health documents for international travel” and “mutual verification” of vaccinations and nucleic acid tests to “facilitate safe and orderly personnel exchanges.”

He said China was willing to help the United Nations provide Covid-19 vaccines to peacekeeping forces and help the International Olympic Committee do the same for athletes.

As part of efforts to “actively assist” overseas nationals to get domestic- or foreign-produced vaccines, China would establish regional inoculation points for domestic vaccines in countries that possess the right conditions, he said.

More than 50 countries have already incorporated Chinese nationals into domestic vaccination plans, and many Chinese people overseas have already received China-made shots under local laws, he added.

In a response to another question, Wang repeated that China opposed “vaccine nationalism” and efforts to politicize the global inoculation process, and urged countries to view the shots as “people’s vaccines.”

China has stifled its domestic Covid-19 outbreak, but its vaccination program lags behind many Western countries.

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Some government officials favor rolling out a “vaccine passport” system that would ease some of the restrictions on those entering or traveling through China.

Zhu Zhengfu, a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, the country’s main political advisory body, submitted a motion at the Two Sessions urging the country to waive mandatory 14-day quarantines for travelers who can provide proof of vaccination and a negative coronavirus test.

Vaccine passport initiatives are “extremely complicated” due to countries’ variable travel restrictions and the need to protect personal data, said Jennifer Zhu Scott, executive chairman of the Commons Project, a nonprofit public trust to build digital good as a public service.

Speaking at a Caixin-sponsored webinar, she said the issue is compounded by the fact that different regions use different systems for recording and storing pandemic-related information, adding that “eventually, we need to figure out a way to bring interoperability” so that people can travel smoothly between different regulatory regimes.

Contact reporter Matthew Walsh (matthewwalsh@caixin.com) and editor Michael Bellart (michaelbellart@caixin.com)

Read more about Caixin’s coverage of China’s Two Sessions 2021.

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