China launches international travel health certificate, leading in world in plans for virus passports
China has launched a health certificate program for domestic travelers, leading the world in plans for so-called virus passports.
The digital certificate, which shows a user's vaccination status and virus test results, is available for Chinese citizens via a program on Chinese social media platform WeChat that was launched on Monday. It has an encrypted code to allow authorities to verify the holder's personal information, according to the Foreign Ministry.
The certificate is being rolled out "to help promote world economic recovery and facilitate cross-border travel," a foreign ministry spokesman said.
The international health certificate is currently only available for use by Chinese citizens and it is not yet mandatory.
The certificate, which is also available in paper form, is thought to be the world's first known "virus passport."
The United States and Britain are among countries currently considering implementing similar permits.
The European Union is also working on a vaccine "green pass" that would allow citizens to travel between member countries and abroad.
China's program includes an encrypted QR code that allows each country to obtain a travelers' health information, state media agency Xinhua reported on Monday.
"QR health codes" within WeChat and other Chinese smartphone apps are already required to gain entry to domestic transport and many public spaces in China.
The apps track a user's location and produce a "green" code — synonymous with good health — if a user has not been in close contact with a confirmed case or has not traveled to a virus hotspot.
State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that in the near future, as more and more countries agree on mutual recognition of health certificates with China, this international travel health document will play a greater role in promoting the healthy, safe and orderly exchange of transnational personnel, and provide Chinese citizens a solid guarantee when traveling abroad.