tv Inside Story LINKTV March 19, 2021 5:30am-6:01am PDT
>> the headlines on al jazeera. china has warned the u.s. to stay out of its internal affairs as top diplomat of the world's two largest economies all taught alaska, the first high-level meeting between the u.s. superpowers and the biden administration. our diplomatic editor as the latest from anchorage. reporter: is this a frank exchange of views or the beginning of an even worse spat between the u.s. and china? that will depend on what is going on now behind closed doors , but there were very tough
words. you heard from the secretary of state in the u.s., criticism of china and what china describes as its own internal affairs. then the chinese side and back, saying there are different forms of democracy. the u.s. as a form of democracy. china has its own form of democracy. anchor: several european countries are resuming astrazeneca vaccines after the continent will be his top medical regulator said the doses are safe and effective. the european medicines agency believes the benefits of receiving the jab far outweigh the potential risks of blood clots. a rapid surge in coronavirus infections is forcing chile to put half of its population interlocked them. at more than 6000 new cases were reported in its latest daily report, while deaths have reached their highest number since june, and it is all happening despite 25% of the population having received one dose of the vaccine.
senior members of the taliban and the test government have been meeting in moscow in an effort to restart stalled peace negotiations. russia, the u.s., china, and pakistan are calling on both sides to observe cease-fire. the talks in moscow have been happening after earlier negotiations had stalled. protesters have held a mess rally in the syrian city. they chanted antigovernment slogans and flew the opposition fled to mark 10 years since the beginning of the uprising against the president. those of the headlines on al jazeera. more news coming up at the top of the hour after inside story. bye bye. ♪ >> will vaccine passports revive
tourism? europe unveils a digital past with others protected from covid-19 to travel freely, but the world health organization is against it as most people have not been immunized. is the idea too premature? this is inside story. ♪ >> hello, and welcome to the program. most of us have not been able to travel for the past year because of the pandemic. with covid-19 vaccines welling out, some governments are looking to welcome doris again for summer. the european union hopes to have a digital green pass ready by june. this will allow people who have been vaccinated, tested negative to travel more freely within the eu bloc.
countries like austria what this in place as early as next month, but the world health organization says it is too slowly given the slow pace of vaccination in the eu. we report from berlin. reporter: on a sunday morning, patrick walks his dog. he has recently been vaccinated and has the badge to prove it, but he would welcome something more efficient. >> the covid-19 health pass would allow us to travel, to get back a little bit of freedom. reporter: by june, those wishes will be a reality because the european commission plans a digital green pass, which all ee residents would have on a smart phone, proving they have been vaccinated, recently recovered from covid, or have a negative test. >> with this digital certificate we aim to help member states reinstate the freedom of movement in a safe, responsible, and trusted manner. reporter: for some leaders that goes neither far north fast enough.
>> we do not want to wait for implementation. we will take further steps on a national level. reporter: many in the tourism industry welcomed the proposal. >> a vaccine certificate is essential to make travel easier, and it is important that it is digital, because only a digital certificate makes it easier to check in at airports. it is no good if there are big cues and lots of bits of paper. reporter: on the flipside the world health organization is urging caution. >> the requirement for syndication of vaccination as a requirement for international travel is not justified as vaccination is not widely enough available and is inequitably distributed -- inaccurately distributed throughout the world. reporter: it will transform the way people travel across the eu, but in order to work as a proof of vaccination the person must first have been vaccinated, and so far comparatively few europeans have been.
♪ anchor: let's bring in our guests in athens, ulrich, professor for european studies at stanford university in berlin. in london, alex, aviation and travel analyst and columnist, and a virologist and lecturer at lancaster university, welcome to the program. all right, let me start with you. at a time when there is still no scientific consensus on the extent to which vaccinations prevent transmission of the virus, is this plan by the european commission irresponsible? guest: i would not say it is irresponsible. i think it is an important symbolic gesture by the european commission. massively under fire and the way they were communicating their role, in the way they were discussing and negotiating the contracts with different
producers of vaccine, and the bottom line was we do not do enough, you do not do it it quickly enough, at this is a symbolic step to signal we try to fill the toolbox to address everything in front of us, and this is just another step, but it is not the ultimate solution. anchor: mohammed, from your vantage point as a neurologist, at this stage during the pandemic, would you say these certificates are a good idea? guest: the important thing is when we talk about the vaccine passport, most of the time it is expressed as logistics and personal independence, but rarely is it discussed about the scientific perspective, so let me explain decided backing -- scientific backing. when we talk about this, they
talk about three conditions. somebody is vaccinated. when somebody is vaccinated, we do not have solid data that person will be able to protect themselves from getting infection or transmitting the infection, so it is not certified that person is really protected. the second condition is someone is infected and recovered. we do know we infections are becoming common, and because of new variants, particularly the second area is really infecting people and people who have recovered from the infection [indiscernible] that somebody is negative for the virus using a standard test. when somebody has tested negative is meaningless because you can get infection either entering into the airport or sitting with somebody who has had a previous infection. when we look at the scientific perspective, at the state in vaccine passport does not make it a cent until we have full
control on this infection, and that makes the situation -- at that point the vaccine passport with a value. anchor: alex, from what you have heard do you believe these certificates will actually be up and running and ready in time to salvage the european summer tourism season? guest: from an aviation perspective, the digital elf pass, also known as the vaccine passport, is widely considered inevitable. it is something airlines have been preparing for. stakeholders have been preparing for, because at a basic level they want to have this harmonization where they can say to firms, organizations, countries, and their respective health authorities, this is the status of this individual, whether they have been vaccinated, whether they have tested negative or recently recovered from covid-19, and this is how we can guarantee that information on a safe
digital platform wher the results are not able to be stipulated in the way that could be with false documents. we note this is something the industry has been preparing for for a very long time. if we look away from aviation and travel, it is something that countries, including the home of al jazeera have been using as part of that plan to unlock, so it is inevitable and it is only natural that as this vaccine rollout at least in rich countries begins to make more progress they are looking to this next step where they can equally and fairly demonstrate to other countries this is the status of this individual and therefore can you allow them to enter your territory. anchor: all right, it has been a sluggish rollout in the eu but the goal is to vaccinate 70% of its adult population by the end of june, i believe. is that a realistic goal at this
stage? is that achievable? guest: i become more and more skeptical when i hear about optimistic scenarios. we have heard so many since the beginning of the pandemic. i now have my doubts. germany was performing pretty well last year. we are slow when it comes to the distribution of vaccines, and the act introduced last year was also highlighted as a technological instrument that will make everything much easier , and it simply does not work, so announcing a new tool at this time of the year and hoping to save tourism season for this year sounds quite ambitious. anchor: the world health organization has says it has been working to create an international trusted framework for safe travel, but vaccinations should not be a condition.
should the eu be working more in tandem with the who on these covid certificates, and what kind of role ultimately will be who play in all of this? guest: yes, absolutely, the continent will not work with the guideline of who and also for other sectors, stakeholders like aviation authorities. we have only 10% to 15% vaccinated, and the majority of those are 80 years old, those who are not likely to travel. having a vaccine passport at this stage i do not think that will help unless the vaccine rollout reaches a point where the vast majority are protected or at least vaccinated.
protection is something we have not decided. anchor: it looked to me like you were nodding along to what mohammed was saying. i went to the rescue from your perspective, isn't the aviation industry going to have to work closely with the who on all of this going forward? guest: i was nodding because i was agreeing on the fact that what we have seen throughout this pandemic is lack of communication between states, even states that belong to the same trade bloc like the european union. we have seen this lack of harmonization and that is what is required as we look to this next phase. i do not blame the european commission for working on assessing the viability of the digital vaccine passport because they know the importance of freedom of movement. we are not just talking about summer holidays. i think they should move away from the school of summer holidays and look for the long-term. look at how we are going to navigate a future of freedom of movement and flying we are used
to running alongside covid-19, which we know will be part of the earth for many years to come, perhaps forever. on the others, there is that quote, nobody is safe until everyone is, and the digital vaccine passport potentially has a different role to play for countries like africa, countries within africa whereby many countries have simply not even receive that first batch of vaccines. a digital vaccine passport is of no help to them. if we were to collaborate a digital health pass with a very robust testing regimto unlock intercontinental travel across the continent of africa, which is again vital. we are not talking about holidays and tourism. that is going to be important for them and not leaving those countries behind. that harmonization is key as we unlock through this next phase of the pandemic, but we need to
be thinking slightly more global and collectively together then we have seen over the last 12 months -- than we have stayed over that last 12 months as countries have become very insular. anchor: you heard alec talk about the need for a harmonization when it comes to agreements going forward. let's look at the eu, where there is been a lot of disharmony. european countries like greece and spain are dependent upon tourism. they have been pushing for an introduction of these certificates, but there are other member states like france and germany saying it is premature to introduce these certificates since a large majority of eu citizens have not had access to vaccine so far. how do you bridge that divide? guest: it is in the very nature of the european union. it is not a substitution but a coordinating body, and i have no idea if and how the european
commission coordinates anything with the who, but it appears to me as if it is a quick shot to respond to unilateral actions of countries like austria and greece, who are much more dependent on tourism than germany, and if they do what we have seen last year, act without coordinating with others, given that we are a highly integrated economic space in which the free movement for people is an essential pillar of this project, then the european commission must step in and to provide something, even if it is not ideal. anchor: if countries like germany and france cannot be swayed, if there is no wide solution when it comes to certificates, will we see countries like greece set up bilateral agreements with other
countries for vaccine to certificates -- vaccines certificates, and how much does that complicate the situation? guest: it will be complicated if there is a lack of harmonization. that is because if there is no wider agreement across the eu, and we can take this free student -- precedent and shifted elsewhere across the gulf and various other regions. if we have no harmonization, this becomes foreign policy. we will see deal struck between countries whereby they are ultimately trying to tap into the tourist markets by giving them the promise if you are vaccinated we are open to you. that individual deal by deal, case-by-case nature is not something we went to see in aviation, travel, but also not something we went to see globally because it will leave countries behind. i do fear this is probably going to be the most likely scenario for this year.
we have seen many countries educate their own policies because they economies have been battered by covid, and they will do all it takes to get tourism into their nations, and if a digital health pass in collaboration with a airline, a private company will give them the economic recovery in the summer they need, that is what they're going to do. anchor: mohammed, regarding what alex just said, and how much does it concern you that we might see more disharmony? that were countries might either set up bilateral agreements with other countries or go it alone when it comes to what should be on these vaccine certificates? how much worse cannot make the problem? guest: i think it would make the situation more complex if we move along with an equitable distribution of the vaccine. countries have a higher percent
of vaccine coverage, they will get more benefit. when we talk about the united kingdom, and here we have 35% of people vaccinated, and if unilateral or multilateral agreements come [indiscernible] for tourism, for businesses, for other things, but a part of the problem is we are talking about advection that does not respect the borders. we have seen a high percent of infection and escape mutants, and any of that can move along within the countries, so often it will take the whole countries disturbing [indiscernible] the first of the variant in the u.k. that we can isolate. 65% of cases in france belong to this mutant, and the same with many countries in the eu. my point is the vaccine passport would be meaningless if we look
at the strategy identified at least at the continent level to have a coordinated response so that everybody within the continent is at the same level of coverage of the vaccine or same level of protection before the vaccine passport will become meaningful. anchor: ulrich, it does the plan as you envisioned out essentially mean it would be a minority that would be able to travel without restrictions, well young people who are not seen as a priority to be vaccinated would have to continue to quarantine if they were to travel? isn't that in some way discriminatory and are you concerned it could become discriminatory? guest: when i spoke of an important pillar of european integration, the freedom of mobility and even more importantly human rights with individual freedoms and guarantees that we are created
equally. if this new instrument leads to forms of discrimination, it will do more harm than it actually helps to bridge the time to where we have higher rates of vaccination, which in my understanding is the main idea to come up with this tool, that it buys time. anchor: alex, the way these vaccines certificates have been envisioned, they are mostly to facilitate travel, correct? we do not yet know if they would help facilitate other activities within a country, whether that might mean getting access to a restaurant, a gymnasium, or other centers within that country, right? guest: it is, the focus of course is on one of the fundamentals in terms of the impact on the pandemic, which is we have lost that freedom of movement. trying to discover what you need to enter a new territory, a new
country is extremely complicated these days. it changes day by day. i work in aviation, and just trying to keep up with these developments myself is challenging, so i have no idea our member of the public is too much -- supposed to meet the ever-changing guidelines. the digital health pass is supposed to cut out the confusion and fast-track you to knowing ultimately if you are eligible to enter that country. that is from an immigration point of view. if you meet the requirements to enter that territory, but that middle part is the a to b, that is the trouble, predominantly air travel, and we know airlines themselves have been the number one user right now trialing these apps. airlines in africa and so on. we have this high uptake, at this high trial usage. as they anticipate this next
period. we are looking at a reality and some parts of the world of no vaccine, no flight. the national flight agency of australia have already said they are writing this into the terms and conditions to say you cannot book a ticket without saying you will be vaccinated before you book that flight. how can you prove it? that is where the health pass comes in. you can see a wide ranging how many boxes they aim to tick through this hopefully simple application that most of us will have on our phones by this time next year. anchor: if these eu certificates come to pass, will this serve as a model that could be used in the united states and other countries? will these countries try to replicate that? guest: certainly, i fully understand the passport -- the vaccine passport is being
proposed for the right reason. there are scientific challenges, logistic challenges, but if it appeared to be successful in terms of opening up economies, opening up doors them, and certainly other countries would be willing to adopt that, but my concern is also the kind of vaccine that will be used to immunize a person. if we talk about novavax, which is 65% to 68% of protection, 40% of the people vaccinated they will have a stamp of vaccination but they might not be protected, and also when we talk about the single-dose versus two doses, there are challenges whether the vaccination is good enough. we do not have in the scientific community information enough that if somebody has antibodies that can be tested is protected against the infection or not or whether they are sitting the virus.
all of this will become the determining factor for success of vaccine certificates. i do not see those become successful, and if those are not [indiscernible] anchor: the issue over which vaccine has been given becomes part of this conversation as well. the european commission -- all vaccines approved by the european medical agency should be recognized. -- what happens to european citizens who have been vaccinated with vaccines that have not been approved for use by the eu? will they be allowed to get the certificate? guest: that is an open question. we are in the trial phase, and what was the war a few months ago is a different one, and we learn on a daily basis. in general, the european
commission tries to offer a step toward more coordination, but it is not essential power. they do not have the right to go as far as a sovereign state, and that is why they only provide a framework and deleted up to each -- leave it up to each member states if someone enters the country with this document and what are the rights and privileges and they can to greatly vary for another one. that makes sense given the situation we have over the european union that is far from being clear. anchor: we have less than one minute left. travelers are going to be concerned about their privacy. in european commission guaranteed a very high level of data protection will be insured -- ensured. i will that be a compass? guest: ultimately from an aviation perspective that they believe it to be a trade-off. at the day that you are already giving airlines we pandemic --
they expected to be a little more, which is that health status, notably around vaccination status and tests, and they believe people will be willing to make that trade-off. with privacy concerns, legitimate concerns if it was or something like freedom of movement and travel, which has been taken from us since the pandemic started one year ago. anchor: we will have to leave the discussion there. thanks so much to all of our guests. and thank you too for watching. you can see this and all previous programs by visiting our website, al jazeera.com, and go to our facebook page. you can also join the conversation on twitter. our handle is @ajinsidestory. bye for now. ♪
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