A big consideration during the Covid-19 pandemic for current and even future expatriates is will they be able to move abroad, back home or to another country destination. Will you be required to have a Covid-19 vaccine and then have a COVID passport?
Roughly 30 percent of Americans and up to 60 percent of French citizens say they will not take the coronavirus vaccine, however, if countries introduce a “no jab, no entry” policy, that percentage of nay-sayers may significantly decrease. So what do we know about Covid passports so far? Will expats need the vaccine in order to live abroad? Or will this be deemed unethical? Note that we are not going to say either way, but we will lay out the arguments and possibilities for expatriates and global nomads.
Vaccine Passport Considerations
At this stage, no definitive answer can be given because the vaccine is just in its roll-out stage. In fact, in some countries is very difficult to get vaccinated, even if you are much older. Many people are waiting to move abroad until they are vaccinated. However, we can look at the countries and businesses that have already implemented a Covid-19 vaccination policy and draw assumptions from these policies.
COVID Vaccination Efforts for Locals and Expatriates
Israel’s vaccination program is miles ahead of other countries. Almost half of its nine million population have been vaccinated and a “green badge” system has subsequently been launched. Vaccinated citizens are given a personal QR code that grants them access to leisure activities such as bars, restaurants, events and conferences. Israeli Health minister, Yuli Edelstein, tells the New York Times “getting vaccinated is a moral duty. It is part of our mutual responsibility… Whoever does not get vaccinated will be left behind.”
Other countries and many airlines seem to agree with Edelstein’s mantra. Joe Biden’s first orders as President were to investigate the practicality of vaccine certifications. Emirates, the UAE’s biggest airline recently announced a Memorandum of Understanding which requires all travelers to Dubai to undergo digital verification of Covid medical records. Air New Zealand is planning to trial a Covid Travel Pass on flights between Auckland and Sydney from April. Greece is already in talks with the United Kingdom over allowing inoculated Brits to travel to its country by May. Haris Theoharis, the tourism minister of Greece, says “the date of 17 May has been set and we certainly want to be ready by then.”
Countries are desperate to jump-start the economy by reopening borders to tourists but there are practical questions raised by Covid-passports. For example, does inoculation stop someone from carrying and transmitting the virus? Or does a jab just mitigate the severity of symptoms? Theoharis stated that someone who is vaccinated has a much lower chance of spreading the virus than someone who isn’t vaccinated but to date, there is no concrete evidence if this is true or not.
What is a Covid Vaccine Passport
For many years, countries have demanded that travelers or expatriates have proof of certain vaccinations in order to be admitted to their country. Most people would gladly talk to their doctor or clinic to get the recommended vaccinations for a destination, such as Yellow Fever. Vaccinations are the most important and significant health achievement in much of human history and have greatly benefited the health of billions of people. A COVID passport is where you have to prove that you have been vaccinated in order to travel or move to a country, but possibly even to attend sports and concert events as well.
Still, Covid vaccine passports also raise a lot of moral questions. If someone does not want to get the vaccine, is it fair that the ability to travel is then stripped from them? Germany’s ethic council has recommended to the German government that no special privileges be given to vaccinated people. The ethics council argued there was a lack of evidence proving vaccinated people stopped the spread of the virus and also said it would cause great unrest if you opened borders to those who opted to take the vaccine and not to those who chose not to.
French critics of the Covid-passport agree with Germany’s ethic council and warned a Covid-passport would be a slippery slope into making inoculation mandatory which is dangerous territory as it strips people of their liberty.
Will You Need a Covid Passport? Probably Yes.
However, even if a country chooses not to enforce a Covid-passport at their border, private enterprises such as restaurants and theatres within that country could still create their own vetting rules. Therefore, even if an unvaccinated expat can travel to a country there is no guarantee they could partake freely within the community if businesses make proof of vaccination necessary. Most expatriates should note that they will probably need to produce some proof they are vaccinated or at least a negative COVID test before they are allowed to move abroad. Maybe you can provide proof that you have already caught coronavirus and therefor have an immunity passport, but that may not fly with most expat destinations.
What About International Health Insurance for Covid Passports
Some countries are already demanding that you have either local or global health insurance coverage that will include coverage for COVID-19. These nations do not want to be burdened by uninsured expatriates and foreigners when they are already struggling to deal with the high costs of medical care during this pandemic. Whatever your age, it is a good idea to choose an international health plan that will provide COVID coverage like any other illness and fully cover you abroad.
A stint in the ICU, especially in high-cost countries like the USA or China, can cost many hundreds of thousands. Most global health plans will cover the cost of the vaccination, but many countries will offer it at no cost. Note that if you have suffered from COVID prior to getting international medical coverage, the insurer may exclude any long-term medical costs that may be associated with the past illness before you applied, such as “Long Covid.”
Some Covid Passport Conclusions
Ultimately, it is up to each expat whether they take the coronavirus vaccine or not but it is looking increasingly likely that many countries and airlines will implement a “no jab, no entry” travel policy. Even if not every country does, declining the vaccine will likely significantly restrict the countries an expat can then travel to.
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