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Exclusive: Tony Blair calls on Boris Johnson to lead drive for global vaccine passport

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 27/01/2021 Sarah Newey, Paul Nuki
Tony Blair wearing a suit and tie: Tony Blair said the UK should use its “fortuitous” presidency of the G7 to “take the initiative” and establish a global standard  - tefan Rousseau/PA Wire © tefan Rousseau/PA Wire Tony Blair said the UK should use its “fortuitous” presidency of the G7 to “take the initiative” and establish a global standard  - tefan Rousseau/PA Wire graphical user interface, text, application, email: Coronavirus Article Bar with counter .. © Provided by The Telegraph Coronavirus Article Bar with counter ..

Tony Blair has called on the Government to establish a single global vaccine passport scheme through the G7, or risk others dictating the rules.

In a detailed report published by the Tony Blair Institute (TBI), he said current border restrictions were “disjointed” and urged the UK to “place the creation of a global Covid-19 travel pass as a key item on the G7 agenda” - a body which Britain currently leads.

The report added that the much tougher international travel restrictions announced on Wednesday by the Prime Minister would be much more difficult to eventually unwind without a vaccine passport.

Mr Blair said the passport should be digital and capable of tracking and verifying an individual’s coronavirus “status” wherever they travel in the world. Included would be details of any vaccination they had, together with the results of Covid-19 test results.

Governments could access data at borders by scanning a QR code, rather than working through reams of paper certificates which might be vulnerable to fraud. 

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Talking to the Telegraph, the former prime minister conceded that travel passes may lead to inequalities between individuals and nations, but warned it was “inevitable” that they would be developed and the issue needed to be confronted now.

Vaccine passport schemes have already emerged in the middle east and Asia, for example.

Mr Blair said the UK faced two major risks if the UK does not use its “fortuitous” presidency of the G7 to “take the initiative” and establish a global standard.

“One is that everyone just does their own thing, which is much more chaotic and difficult to manage. Or secondly, there's a set of rules in place that you may not be that happy with.”

He added that uniform standards will help to ensure the safe reopening of borders and aid economic recovery, especially for the travel industry - which is worth more than 10 per cent of the global economy.

Worldwide, airlines alone suffered a net loss of £87 billion last year, as passenger traffic fell to 1999 levels, he noted. Financial aid from governments to airlines now totals $123 billion, a level of spending “unsustainable” in 2021.

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The UK economy has been hard hit by travel restrictions. The closure of air travel between Britain and America alone is estimated to have cost £3.5 billion in lost income from tourists and business travellers.

Mr Blair told the Telegraph that an international vaccine passport scheme will be critical to “re-connect” the globe. He said it was “sensible” to start discussions now, ahead of an expected rebound in travel when restrictions are eventually eased. 

“It's better to have common rules and a common verification system, so that people know what your disease status is and know it with some validation,” he said.

Seeking consensus among the G7 countries “will be a critical first step in securing wider global agreement”.

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