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Digital health passes going live in EU and UK; but for what?

Mastercard partners to boost African option

iphone in use

The European Union is on track to launch its digital health pass for proof of COVID-19 immunity to operation by the end of June, France24 reports, with 18 of the 27 EU countries plus Iceland carrying out tests over the next two weeks. Initially, it is approved only for travel within the Schengen area.

French Parliament has approved the EU Green Pass, RFI writes, not just for travel but also for events attended by more than 1,000 people. The expansion of the Green Pass’ application to events prompted criticism from political fringe groups, while the country’s Digital Economy Minister said large venues would otherwise be unable to reopen.

The EU travel trials will be used to evaluate the Green Pass’ key authentication reliability and interoperability.

Most EU countries are expected to complete their implementations of the Green Pass by mid-June.

UK plan lacks details as launch approaches

The digital health pass feature of the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) app will be ready for use by May 17, but De Montfort University Cybersecurity Professor Eerke Boiten urges the government not to wait to provide details on how it will be used in an interview with Digital Health.

“What guarantees on authentication do they rely on? Because owning a phone is not strong enough authentication, or not strong enough identification of the holder,” Boiten told Digital Health.

“It needs to be tied to some identity system at some point and the use cases need to justify that.”

While the new function does not seem to introduce new security concerns over and above those Boiten already sees in the NHS app, strong digital identity authentication will be necessary to ensure the credentials presented belong to the bearer. The NHS app already uses iProov biometrics for onboarding.

Africa health pass options emerging

Mastercard has formed a strategic partnership with Econet Group subsidiary Cassava Fintech International to work on a range of digital inclusion initiatives, including the expansion of the Africa CDC Travel Pass.

The TravelPass digital health pass was developed by Cassava, and is accessible to users through the Sasai SuperApp, which supports biometric authentication for payments. The collaboration will enhance TravelPass with Mastercard’s Community Pass platform, according to the announcement, in the hopes of promoting safe travel within the continent.

Beyond the health pass application, the partners will explore potential collaboration on mobile and financial services.

Africa’s aviation sector has largely aligned behind the African Union’s Trusted Travel (TT) program and its Trusted Travel Pass, which provides information on entry requirements and COVID-19 test or vaccination records. Ethiopian Airlines, EgyptAir and Kenya Airways have all signed up as strategic partners to the program, as Routesonline notes.

The payment giant has also committed to providing $25 million or more to the equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. Mastercard will also match donations during the upcoming VAX LIVE concert event, up to $4 million, and through Citi Mastercards up to $1 million.

Gulf Air adopts IATA Travel Pass

A trial of the IATA Travel Pass by Gulf Air has begun, through a partnership with the government of Bahrain, to confirm the immunity status of passengers with face biometrics, writes The Daily Tribune.

The trial is running on flights from Bahrain to London, Athens and Singapore, with test results being sent from four approved hospitals in Bahrain.

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