While Singapore is looking into the digital vaccine passport system, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has recently said that it does not back the use of vaccine passports for travel due to uncertainty around whether vaccinated individuals can still transmit the virus, as well as equity concerns.
A WHO spokeswoman, Margaret Harris, said at a recent United Nations news briefing: “We as WHO are saying at this stage we would not like to see the vaccination passport as a requirement for entry or exit because we are not certain at this stage that the vaccine prevents transmission.”
“There are all those other questions, apart from the question of discrimination against the people who are not able to have the vaccine for one reason or another,” she added.
In Singapore on Monday (5 Apr), however, Senior Minister of State for Health Janil Puthucheary told Parliament that the data on the duration of the vaccine’s protection and effectiveness in preventing transmission of COVID-19 has been “encouraging” so far.
However, he noted that more data is needed to assess if changes to border measures, such as testing and stay-home notice requirements, could be made for those who have been fully vaccinated.
“More information is also needed to assess if such measures will be affected by the different types of vaccines,” Dr Puthucheary went on.
He also said that the state is “actively discussing” possible mutual recognition of vaccination certificates with other countries.
However, Dr Puthucheary cautioned that it would “take some time” and that the public would be updated when there has been significant progress on the matter.
For the time being, it seems that the Singapore government is optimistic about a digital vaccine passport system for international travellers even though the WHO is more cautious.
Singapore had cited WHO guidelines for mask policy U-turn
In the early days of the pandemic, the government had seemed to shift blame for the country’s mask policy to the WHO.
In the beginning, Singapore’s policy on face masks was that only individuals who were unwell would need to wear masks, noting that the WHO’s own guideline on mask usage was similar.
Later, the administration came under fire for first rejecting the widespread use of face masks before making a U-turn on the policy and implementing a compulsory mask-wearing rule.
PM Lee had said in a televised address in April last year that the Government is concerned about “some cases out there community going undetected” even if there are few of them.
“We also now have evidence that an infected person can show no symptoms, and yet still pass on the virus to others,” he said, adding: “This is why the WHO is reviewing the issue of face masks, and so is the US CDC.”
In a press conference addressing the change, then-National Development Minister Lawrence Wong reiterated that the change in the government’s stance on masks was in line with the changing advice from the WHO.
While the country had seemed to tread close to the WHO’s guidelines and policies earlier when it needed to justify its U-turn on the mask policy, it appears now that the state is opting to march to its own beat when it comes to the digital vaccine passports despite WHO’s concerns.