Before us, stands a mandatory travel regulation with the name of vaccination passport. It is of vital importance that Turkey gets prepared for these regulations in advance and it takes the necessary steps in this regard.
It is also called the “vaccination passport”… The world has begun to talk about this topic intensely. The stage reached in Europe and the decisions taken by EU countries are what makes the flesh and bone of the discussion. Even though there are criticisms on issues such as discrimination and that this practice will risk personal information security, there are no other options for the time being that are mentioned in Europe other than a common certificate in this regard. The European Commission recommended that anyone who received the last dose of an EU-approved vaccine at least before two weeks is allowed to travel. Different ways of organizing major events such as concerts and sports events are also being attempted through these works.
TURKEY SHOULD BE PREPARED FOR THE VACCINE PASSPORT APPLICATION
At this stage, it is unthinkable for Turkey to stand apart. One of the most important sources of income in Turkey is undoubtedly the tourism sector. Also, it is the driving force of economic dynamism within the country. Therefore, as we enter June, it is necessary to quickly make up for the time we have lost. Although it is criticized by certain communities in Turkey as in Europe, before us, stands a mandatory travel regulation with the name of “vaccination passport” or “vaccination certificate”. It is of vital importance that Turkey gets prepared for these regulations in advance, which are considered to undoubtedly be implemented especially in EU countries, and that it takes the necessary steps in this regard. It is highly possible that not getting included in this system until the end of 2021 will cause Turkey to fall behind its potential in travels from Europe to Turkey.
The general trend in Europe regarding this issue is also reflected in research. For example, in a recent study of IPSOS, an average of three out of four individuals thinks that people from other countries must hold COVID-19 vaccine passport to enter their country, and they believe that this will make travel and major events safer. Looking at the course of movement across the EU, it is seen that it is time to start the summer holiday season and agree on an integrated system for the union. Firstly, each country will make its own national system and the necessary legal changes, then the information collected from here will be rendered accessible to the network that will enable it to integrate into the EU system, and finally, the transfer of the individuals at the airports will be provided by making comparisons with the identity information of these individuals. Countries such as Spain, Greece, and Italy are intensely working to conclude this process.
THE VACCINE PASSPORT AND LIMIT ON THE NUMBER OF CASES WILL BE A PRE-CONDITION FOR TRAVELLING
The call for the removal of travel restrictions for non-EU countries with high vaccination rates has also been made. In this context, one of the options is to reduce the number of cases seen in 100 thousand from 100 to at least 30-40 for entries from non-EU countries. In other words, it seems that both the integrated/approved vaccine certificate and the condition that the number of cases for the countries is below a certain limit will be sought collectively.
The UK has brought freedom to citizens who use the vaccine information system on their returns to the country since May 17. However, this will apply to the green list covering 12 countries. UK citizens that go to the countries on the red list, including Turkey, will again be faced with testing and quarantine requirements. This issue will be voted on June 13 in Switzerland, the country of referendums.
IT IS IMPORTANT FOR THE TOURISM SEASON THAT THE ADAPTATION CAPACITY IS FAST
The importance of this process for Turkey is obvious. Adaptation capacity should be fast and strong in order to maintain the season effectively. The number of cases should be reduced, and the vaccination rate must be increased. As effective results are obtained in these two requirements, Turkey will take part in the international applications in the summer period without any problems. However, it is necessary to discuss this topic in the following three key dimensions and take steps accordingly:
1. The vaccination certificate will be valid when entering and leaving the countries to a large extent. In addition, equal opportunities must be offered to those who have not yet been vaccinated for travel in areas such as shopping malls, cafes, and restaurants in the country. Although it is stated in some countries that vaccine certificates will also be valid within the country, it does not seem possible for Turkey to manage it due to its own conditions and cultural structure. Here in Turkey, the application called HES has been widely used already. Perhaps increasing inspections might be beneficial in this regard.
2. Ensuring that the certificate or digital network to be developed does not harm information security and integrates with countries and regions where tourism activity is intense. In this context, what should be focused on in the first stage is to ensure conformity with the digital green certificate accepted by the EU. Considering that this will take a certain time, it is very important that the relevant institutions take these steps before the end of the first half of June. Even though e-Nabız and HES systems that are currently used in Turkey are successful, they may need to be supported for network integration with other countries. Because the common application to be initiated by the EU for tourists coming to Turkey after the measures end on May 17 may become a psychological threshold. It should be noted that the bureaucratic problems are the biggest constraints here, as is the case in the domestic vaccine processes…
3. Considering the EU’s planning, by the middle of summer, those who have had the vaccine that is valid for international travel will be at more advantage. I am calling it valid because the vaccines do not have the same level of acceptance in a different country. For example, only BioNTech seems to be valid among the vaccines Sinovac, Sputnik, and Pfizer/BioNTech within the scope of the practice that the EU will start. The others are still in the testing stage. Vaccine preferences should also be planned accordingly. Taking into account that the production of the domestic vaccine may be realised until the end of the year and the application of certificates will be continued intensely until the end of 2021, vaccine preferences should be made over this detail.
Prof. Dr. Kürşad Zorlu