Taiwan says COVID 'passports' would be a good idea

FILE PHOTO: People wear protective masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) while walking at the river path during sunset hour in Taipei, Taiwan, August 6, 2020. REUTERS/Ann Wang

TAIPEI (Reuters) - COVID-19 "passports" to show peoples' inoculation and infection history will be hard to do in practice but are a good idea, Taiwan Health Minister Chen Shih-chung said on Wednesday, offering support to a means to get global travel going again.

Global aviation body IATA said last month it is developing a set of mobile apps to help passengers navigate COVID-19 travel restrictions and securely share test and vaccine certificates with airlines and governments.

That news came shortly after Australian airline Qantas said it would insist in future that international travellers have a COVID-19 vaccination before they fly, describing the move as "a necessity".

Taiwan has kept the pandemic well under control thanks to early and effective prevention, and has been very cautious about when it may re-open its borders, which are still largely closed to visitors.

Asked whether he thought IATA's COVID "passport" was a good one, Chen said such a thing was "not easy to do", pointing to problems such as certificate verification between countries.

"But we look forward to this kind of strategy being developed, so everyone can have a clearer grasp of the health or vaccination situation" of people, he told reporters.

"While there's no way it can be 100%, if an authentication mechanism between countries and ports can be developed it would be helpful," Chen added.

Taiwan has seen a slow but steady increase in the number of imported virus cases, which has unnerved the government even though there are only around 100 active infections in total on the island who are either in isolation or being treated in hospital.

The government has responded with a tightening of measures, including mandating negative COVID-19 tests for almost all arrivals.

While other countries are exploring "travel bubbles", Chen said that was not something Taiwan was considering at present.

A hotly-anticipated air travel bubble between Singapore and Hong Kong has been delayed until next year, the cities' authorities said on Tuesday, due to a spike in coronavirus cases in Hong Kong.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Kim Coghill)

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