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PACE clarifies legal and human rights pre-conditions for the use of Covid passes

Damien Cottier
©Council of Europe

PACE has clarified the pre-conditions necessary for the use of Covid passes, declaring their use “fraught with legal and human rights complications”.

The use of such passes, which would partially lift Covid restrictions for holders, “above all depends on a high degree of certainty about medical risks”, PACE pointed out in a resolution, based on a report by Damien Cottier (Switzerland, ALDE).

The committee set out a series of issues that would have to be addressed if such documents are to avoid being discriminatory whilst maintaining protections against the spread of Covid-19.

Such passes should contain categories distinguishing between those who have been vaccinated against Covid, those who have recovered from it, and those who have tested negative for it – and any relaxation of restrictions granted by the pass should be consistent with the risk of transmission for these different groups, also taking account of the epidemiological situation in the country concerned, the committee said.

In addition, such passes should take account of the relative effectiveness of different vaccines, including against variants, and the degree of risk involved in the different activities they might give access to, especially if holders might come into contact with people who are not yet immune.

Finally, a system of Covid passes should have a clear basis in law, comply fully with data protection standards, and be protected against counterfeiting or other criminal abuse. Any system of passes should be strictly limited in duration to the needs of the current emergency, and should not be “repurposed” for other aims without prior democratic scrutiny and legal oversight.

Recalling an earlier resolution, the Assembly warned that any system of Covid passes must “not become tantamount to coercion and effectively make vaccination compulsory”. Any indirect undue pressure could be mitigated if Covid passes were available on grounds other than vaccination.