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EU vaccine chief hopes for tourism boost as he unveils Covid-19 ‘health passport’

The head of the European Commission vaccines task force, Thierry Breton, unveiled the first European "health passport" on Sunday, claiming he hopes Europe will have a summer season "comparable to last year".

EU vaccine chief hopes for tourism boost as he unveils Covid-19 'health passport'
It's hoped the health passport will open up Europe for tourism in 2021. Photo: Gabriella Clare Marino/Unsplash

The new health certificate should be available “within two to three months” in both digital and paper formats, Breton told RTL radio and TV channel LCI.

For the first time, people got a glimpse of the health passport that will be made available throughout the EU, validated by the 27 member states.

“From the moment we can be sure that every European who wants to be vaccinated will have fair access to the vaccine, as will be the case in the next two to three months – it will be good to have a health certificate that demonstrates your condition,” said Breton.

Implementing the health travel document is planned for June, which would allow travel to resume across Europe, he added.

This is supported by an acceleration of Covid-19 vaccination rollouts, with the European Union expected to deliver 420 million doses by mid-July.

READ ALSO: EU vaccine passports must prevent ‘discrimination’: European Commission

Describing the EU’s vaccination campaign, he said, “We have to shift to the next gear. This will be the price for having a tourist season that I hope will be comparable to last year’s, which in the end wasn’t so bad in the context we’re in.”

Included in the digital version of the passport will be a QR code, the state you’re from and whether you have been vaccinated or not. The paper version will contain personal details such as name and date of birth and also the passport number that is certified with a QR code, detailing whether you’ve been vaccinated and if you’ve been a carrier of the disease.

READ ALSO: Could ‘health passports’ kickstart travel around Europe?

“For those who have had neither the vaccine nor the disease and for whom a PCR test will be requested, you can see the status of your PCR test,” he added.

The EU’s vaccination scheme has been dogged by delays and shortfalls, with controversy over AstraZeneca’s distribution of doses creating even more friction within the bloc.

After some countries paused the administration of AstraZeneca and later resumed the rollout, like Italy, other countries across Europe are currently not giving any of this firm’s doses to citizens, including Norway and Denmark.

But Breton insisted that any AstraZeneca vaccinations produced in the EU will stay there until the company delivers on its commitments.

READ ALSO: AstraZeneca vaccine ‘safe and effective’ against Covid-19, European Medicines Agency concludes

Member comments

  1. And yet the question remains…even if parents are vaccinated, what requirements will be placed for children for whom the vaccine is not available…

  2. Have been wishing for huge amounts of vaccine to be given to Italy!! This is a tragedy that is so solvable by an organized program. The EU BIG WIGS are to blame. The Italian people must be helped quickly!

  3. This is going to create a two-tiered society. If you are not vaccinated (through no fault of your own…the scarcity of vaccines, and focus on the elderly makes a huge portion of the population not able to get vaccinated) you will be burned with the time and expense of getting a PCR test, while those who are fortunate to be vaccinated not only get that benefit, but don’t have to spend more and time and money. Seems that the country needs a large percentage of the population vaccinated in order to make all this movement safe (same for the new April 26 opening) as we will otherwise end up in lockdown all over again. We all saw what summer travel did last year. This is all about grabbing the summer income and not about respecting the endless sacrifice we’ve all gone through with endless lockdowns. And, now, the punishment of those who can’t even get a vaccine. At the very least those PCR tests better be free.

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How a rental car shortage in Europe could scupper summer holiday plans

After long months of lockdowns and curfews Europeans are looking forward to jetting off for a bit of sun and sand -- only to find that their long awaited holiday plans go awry due to a shortage of rental cars.

How a rental car shortage in Europe could scupper summer holiday plans
Tourists wait outside of rental car agencies in Corsica. Photo: PASCAL POCHARD-CASABIANCA / AFP

In many areas popular with tourists cars are simply not available or subcompacts are going for a stiff €500 euros.

Car rental comparison websites show just how expensive renting a vehicle has become for tourists this summer.

According to Carigami, renting a car for a week this summer will set tourists back an average of 364 euros compared to 277 euros two years ago.

For Italy, the figure is 407 euros this summer compared to 250 euros in 2019. In Spain, the average cost has jumped to 263 euros from 185 euros.

According to another website, Liligo, daily rental costs have nearly doubled on the French island of Corsica. At the resort city of Palma on the Spanish island of Mallorca, rental prices have nearly tripled.

Today’s problem is a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Faced with near absence of clients, selling off vehicles to raise cash made a lot of sense for car rental firms struggling to survive.

“Everyone drastically reduced their fleet,” said the head of Europcar, Caroline Parot.

Until the spring, most companies still had fleets roughly a third smaller than in 2019, she said.

Car rental firms are used to regularly selling their vehicles and replacing them, so rebuilding their inventory should not have been a problem.

Except the pandemic sent demand for consumer electronics surging, creating a shortage of semiconductors, or chips, that are used not only in computers but increasingly in cars.

“A key contributor to the challenge right now is the global chip shortage, which has impacted new vehicle availability across the industry at a time when demand is already high,” said a spokesman for Enterprise.

It said it was working to acquire new vehicles but that in the mean time it is shifting cars around in order to better meet demand.

No cars, try a van

“We’ve begun to warn people: if you want to come to Italy, which is finally reopening, plan and reserve ahead,” said the head of the association of Italian car rental firms, Massimiliano Archiapatti.

He said they were working hard to meet the surge in demand at vacation spots.

“But we’ve got two big islands that are major international tourism destinations,” he said, which makes it difficult to move cars around,
especially as the trip to Sardinia takes half a day.

“The ferries are already full with people bringing their cars,” he added.

“Given the law of supply and demand, there is a risk it will impact on prices,” Archiapatti said.

The increase in demand is also being seen for rentals between individuals.

GetAround, a web platform that organises such rentals, said it has seen “a sharp increases in searches and rentals” in European markets.

Since May more than 90 percent of cars available on the platform have been rented on weekends, and many have already been booked for much of the summer.

GetAround has used the surge in demand to expand the number of cities it serves.

For some, their arrival can’t come fast enough.

Bruno Riondet, a 51-year-old aeronautics technician, rents cars to attend matches of his favourite British football club, Brighton.

“Before, to rent a car I was paying between 25 and 30 euros per day. Today, it’s more than 90 euros, that’s three times more expensive,” he said.

In the United States, where prices shot higher during the spring, tourists visiting Hawaii turned to renting vans.

In France, there are still cars, according to Jean-Philippe Doyen, who handles shared mobility at the National Council of Automobile Professionals.

“Clients have a tendency to reserve at the last minute, even more so in the still somewhat uncertain situation,” he said.

They will often wait until just a few days before their trip, which means car rental firms don’t have a complete overview of upcoming demand, he added.

He said business is recovering but that revenue has yet to reach pre-pandemic levels as travel is not yet completely unfettered.

SEE ALSO: British drivers will no longer need an insurance ‘green card’ to visit Europe, EU rules

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