Austria’s immunity pass – nicknamed ‘green pass’ after a similar idea in Israel – will be up and running by May 19th, when the country steps out of the nationwide lockdown.
Austria will introduce the pass before a similar idea is introduced at EU level, meaning that for most Austrians it will be introduced in phases.
The card will allow special privileges for people who have been fully vaccinated, as well as those who have had the virus recently and who have tested negative.
While the project has also been in development at a European level, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz is one of its major advocates.
In a press conference on April 26th, Kurz said he wanted Austria to be a “pioneer” of this plan.
Kurz also indicated Austria will have the plan ready in the coming weeks and did not want to wait for the EU before implementing it.
Here’s what you need to know.
First phase: May 19th
The first phase of the green pass will be May 19th – just in time for Austria’s nationwide lockdown loosening.
At this stage, “it will not be much more than normal proof of vaccination, testing and recovery”, reports Austria’s Der Standard newspaper.
In that sense, the early phase of the green pass is expected to be similar to the existing proof needed to visit hairdressers in most Austrian states – and bars and restaurants in the state of Vorarlberg.
This means that the early phase of the green pass will simply be paper or electronic proof of vaccination, negative test or a recent coronavirus infection.
Second phase: early to mid-June
The second phase will see the pass incorporate a QR code, which will make it easier and quicker to scan people into events and bars and restaurants.
This will be usable through smart phones, but Austrian media also reports it will be usable in paper form.
An exact date has not been set for this, however Austrian media reports it is expected to be two to three weeks after May 19th’s first phase.
Third phase: Europe
The third phase of the plan will involve a continent-wide scheme which will give holders rights to travel.
This has sometimes been termed the ‘green passport’ and will not only allow people to travel, but is expected to be ready to allow people to visit bars, restaurants, events and close contact services (i.e. hairdressers) in other countries.
No set date has been given for this but it is expected to be ready in time for summer.
Wasn’t this supposed to be introduced in April?
Austria had previously announced that the card would be released in April, but the plan was blocked by opposition parties in Austrian parliament.
As a result, it will now be introduced in three stages from May 19th.
What are the further hurdles and sticking points with the plan?
One issue is whether the plan has parliamentary support in Austria, with the Social Democrats indicating they may not support it in its current form, Wiener Zeitung reports.
If so, fully vaccinated people would also need to take a test to participate in the plan until May 25th – after which proof of vaccination would be sufficient.
The Social Democrats have indicated they will blockade the plan until May 25th because there is not enough vaccine for everyone and they feel the introduction of a plan before that stage would be unfair.
One further issue is a disagreement between European and Austrian authorities as to how long after both vaccination doses should the pass come into effect.
In Austria, the plan is for the pass to be valid three weeks after your second vaccination shot, while in Europe and other countries the plan is for two weeks.
Der Standard reports that in other countries even shorter deadlines are being considered.
Austria has not made a conclusive decision on this yet but is expected to rely heavily on advice from the European Medicines Agency.