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These European Countries Are Launching Vaccine Passports

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By Suzanne Rowan Kelleher(Forbes Staff
Travel)

It’s becoming clearer that in the not-too-distant future, international travelers will require some sort of vaccine passport or vaccine certificate, as a growing number of countries get behind the idea. The appeal is that these documents would allow countries to clear travelers upon entry without the need for quarantining and testing requirements.

While the United States government has not yet indicated support for a vaccine passport, there are signs that the new administration is pondering it.

On his full first day in office, President Biden revealed his 200-page national pandemic strategy with seven goals aimed at ending the Covid-19 pandemic. Buried deep in the report, on page 181, is a directive for multiple government agencies to work together to “assess the feasibility” of linking Covid-19 vaccinations to international vaccination certificates and producing electronic versions of them.

Over the past few weeks in Europe, vaccine certification programs have been building up a head of steam.

The United Kingdom is preparing a certification system that would allow inoculated citizens to travel abroad this summer, reported the London Times today. British Foreign Office Minister James Cleverly told BBC Radio 4’s Today program it was “not an uncommon practice” for countries to require documentation on inoculations and that the UK government would work with international partners on this.

Last month, Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Union Commission, said that she supports creating a common EU-established vaccination certificate that can be issued by member states to their citizens. Von der Leyen even suggested that such a certificate should be a “medical requirement.”

She was responding to a letter from Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, in which he called upon the European Commission to introduce a standardized coronavirus vaccination certificate to facilitate travel within the European Union bloc.

While they wait for an EU-wide vaccination certificate to become available, some European Union member states are already or will soon be issuing their own certificates to citizens who have been vaccinated against Covid-19.

On January 21, Iceland became the first European country to provide Covid-19 vaccination certificates to citizens who have received two doses of the vaccine. Iceland will recognize similar vaccination certificates that are issued from any EU or Schengen country.

This week, two other Nordic countries, Denmark and Sweden, announced they will also roll out digital passports that will not only allow citizens to travel but also dine out in restaurants and attend large in-person events like concerts and festivals. “It will be the extra passport that you will be able to have on your mobile phone that documents that you have been vaccinated,” said Danish Finance Minister Morten Boedskov. Sweden’s minister for digital development, Anders Ygeman, said his country hoped to be issuing its first electronic certificates in June.

Spain is also bullish on the health passport idea. “Vaccine certification is something we are going towards inevitably,” said Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez during an interview on RNE national radio last month. “It will be a very important element to guarantee a safe return to mobility.”

And at a meeting with the European Commission, Portugal’s Interior Minister Eduardo Cabrita ventured that vaccine certification would be easier to manage than the current Covid-19 requirements. Certificates “should act as proof of security and do away with certain requirements at borders — in particular, the requirement for PCR tests,” he said.

Cyprus is on the same wavelength. The Mediterranean island nation announced that it will abolish health requirements like testing and quarantine for travelers who could prove they had been vaccinated.

Poland also launched a digital vaccine passport last month. Citizens who get two doses of the vaccine receive a confirmation document with a unique QR code that is downloadable only from the traveler’s personal public health account. A printed version is available to those who do not have smartphones. “The document will be the so-called passport of the vaccinated person, which will confirm that the person has been vaccinated and can use the rights to which vaccinated people are entitled,” Anna Golawska, Poland’s Deputy Minister of Health, told reporters.

If a country-by-country solution sounds scattershot and cumbersome, the World Health Organizaton (WHO) is also working on a vaccine certification solution that can roll out on a global scale. The WHO’s position is that vaccine passports would be an improvement over current Covid-19 testing protocols and so-called immunity passports, which certify that someone has recovered from the illness and has antigens.

Since October, the WHO has been working with Estonia to develop a digital Covid-19 vaccination certificate using blockchain technology that they are calling a “smart yellow card,” reported Reuters. The play on words is a 21st-century wink at the old-school paper-based International Certificate of Vaccination, more popularly known as the “yellow card,” which has for decades provided world travelers with analog proof that they have been vaccinated against yellow fever

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Aviation

NIGERIA RECORDS ANOTHER MILESTONE, AS NIMET GRADUATES GAMBIAN TRAINEES

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Senator Hadi Sirika with the Gambian President HE Adama Barrow during the Minister's visit

The Federal Government through Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet) will continue to support Gambia and other needy nations in the training of meteorological technicians to highlight the importance attached to the contribution of meteorology to sustainable socio-economic development, as well as safety of citizens.

The Honourable Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika stated this at the inaugural graduation ceremony of middle level meteorological technicians trained by the Nigeria Meteorological Agency (NiMet) held in Banjul, The Gambia.

He noted that “Aviation is a serious business with critical safety requirements and socio-economic impacts. Hence, personnel working on this sector must be highly skilled and competent”.

A statement by the Director, Public Affairs, Ministry of Aviation, James Odaudu quotes the Minister as saying that one of the instruments of the partnership was through the World Meteorological Organization Regional Training Centres and affiliated training institutes which W.M.O. encouraged member countries to close the gap through increased cooperation and collective partnership such as the ongoing one between Nigeria and Gambia.

Hadi Sirika disclosed that the Niigerian Meteorological Agency (Nimet) has done this due to huge support from Federal Government of Nigeria through the Ministry of Aviation via robust budgetary provisions. As most of the operational funding for the Agency were derived from allocation from the contributory service basket provided to the Aviation Industry by the Agencies under the ministry.
Sirika gave kudos to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) fir championing and supporting countries to effectively engage in Public Private Partnerships (PPP).

“This is because the future of service provision and user interface should effectively move from a linear type of value chain to an interactive environment where systems, data, solutions, and end users are iteratively engaged, and users are contributing significantly toinformation management and weather & climate service-level products. These will contribute to capabilities towards meeting global targets of the sustainable development goals”.

“This vision is realisable where regular meetings with vulnerable sectors to promote interaction and strengthen the provision and utilisation of meteorological services exist. As a strategy to further strengthen the expansion of weather and climate services to vulnerable sectors and the user community, NiMet therefore realizes that partnerships and engagement with the private sector cannot be overemphasized”.

The Nigerian Government, the Minister said, has the appropriate Legal Framework that enables the NiMet to participate in collaborative and effective Public-Private-Engagements (PPEs).

“In the phase of dwindling revenue by Governments worsened by the COVID￾19 pandemic, the importance of PPE cannot be overemphasised. Once, Trust has been established with appropriate legal document such as Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that is clear on the role of individual parties and sharing formula of all expected benefits, PPE is the way to go. This is another area; Nigeria can be of help”.

He equally commended the Government of The Gambia for taking the initiative to conceive the concept that led to the graduation ceremony, and the Minister of Fisheries and Water Resources for making excellent arrangements to ensure the success of the capacity development initiative.

“The presence of dignitaries here today is a testament to the critical value of the training programme and its impacts on the people and the developmental process in The Gambia. This goes to highlight the importance attached to contributions of meteorology to sustainable socio-economic development, as well as safety of citizens
of this great Country”

Senator Sirika, Prof Matazu (DG NiMet) and other members of the Nigerian delegation during a courtesy visit to President Adama Barrow in Banjul

On his part, the Minister, Ministry of Fisheries and Water Resources, Gambia Hon. James Furmus Peter Gomez, commended the Federal Government of Nigeria, saying the training partnership will further strengthen the cordial and fruitful bi-lateral ties that exists between the Department of Water Resources and NiMet and by extension the two countries.

“The challenge of improving the resilience of communities to climate vulnerabilities, risks and disasters is a key element in the strategies and solutions envisioned by the Government of The Gambia, as stated in the National Development Plan(NDP) as well as in both the Agriculture & Natural Resources and National Climate Change Policies. While the answer seems to be the existence of dedicated structures with an organizational system, the provision of adapted sectoral services to cope with extreme weather and climate risks is becoming increasingly important”

He added that Gambia authority noted the efforts Nigeria was making towards the capacity development of its personnel in fundamental aspects of meteorological observations and forecasting, as well as quality management system, all geared towards meeting the standard set by WMO and ICAO.

“On behalf of the Government and People of the Republic of The Gambia, I once again extend our sincere appreciation and gratitude to the Government of Federal Republic of Nigeria for the bi-lateral assistance it has been rendering in many ways to help improve the standard of the Meteorological servicesin The Gambia. We particularly note the efforts you have been making towards the capacity development of our personnel in fundamental aspects of meteorological observations and forecasting, as well as quality management system, all geared towards meeting the standard set by World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)”.

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International

BREAKING: Mali’s Interim President, Bah Ndaw and Prime Minister Resign

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Mali’s interim President, Bah Ndaw and Prime Minister, Moctar Ouane have resigned.

The News Agency of Nigeria, NAN reported that Mali’s interim Vice President, Assimi Goita, made this known in a statement released on Wednesday.

Goita said they resigned for violating the transition charter.

Recall that the military, Monday night, detained the duo and Defence Minister Souleymane Doucouré. They were taken to the Kati Military Camp near the capital, Bamako.

The development occured months after the coup that ousted ex-President, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.

Reacting, the United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres in a statement demanded that the leaders be freed immediately.

Also, the Nigerian Government in a statement released condemned the detention of Mali’s interim President, Bah Ndaw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane.

Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs spokesperson, Ferdinand Nwoye, lamented that the action might derail the peace building efforts and timetable for the return of democratic governance in Mali.

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International

Putin says Ukraine is becoming an ‘anti-Russia’, pledges response

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(Reuters)

By Andrew Osborn and Alexander Marrow

MOSCOW (Reuters) -President Vladimir Putin said on Friday that neighbouring Ukraine was becoming ‘anti-Russia’ and that Moscow would be ready to react to what he said were threats to its own security.

Putin was speaking a day after a Ukrainian court placed Viktor Medvedchuk, a prominent pro-Russian politician who says Putin is godfather to his daughter, under house arrest.

Medvedchuk, who has promoted closer ties with Moscow and acted as an intermediary between Moscow and Kyiv in the past, is being investigated over treason allegations he calls politically-motivated.

Putin, in remarks to a meeting of Russia’s security council, called what was happening in Ukraine a ‘cleansing’ of the political space and accused the Ukrainian authorities of targeting people who favoured better ties with Russia and supported a peaceful settlement in eastern Ukraine where Ukrainian forces have been fighting Russian-backed separatists since 2014.

“Judging by everything, and this is very sad, Ukraine is slowly but surely turning into some kind of polar opposite of Russia, some kind of anti-Russia, and into a platform from whose territory it seems we will constantly receive news requiring our special attention from a security point of view,” said Putin.

Referring to what he described as a selective and politically-motivated crackdown in Ukraine on certain individuals doing business with Russia, Putin said Moscow would not stand idly by.

“This is, of course, an issue that should always be on our radar and we should respond to this given the threats being created for us in a timely and appropriate manner,” said Putin.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Friday the crackdown on Medvedchuk, which began in February when he and several associates were sanctioned and three television channels owned by an ally were forced off air, was a legal way of choking off what he described as his malign influence.

“For the first time in many years the number of oligarchs has not increased, but decreased. Minus Medvedchuk,” Zelenskiy wrote in a blog.

“With the help of legal tools, Medvedchuk was stripped of the possibility of using media assets and state property to openly attack the country and damage state security.”

Relations between Moscow and Kyiv collapsed after Russia annexed the Ukrainian region of Crimea in 2014 and Russian-backed separatists took control of a chunk of eastern Ukraine that same year.

Tensions have flared again in recent months after the two countries traded blame for an uptick in fighting in eastern Ukraine, and Russia, in what it called a defensive exercise, massed troops on its western border with Ukraine and in Crimea.

(Additional reporting by Polina Ivanova in Moscow and Pavel Polityuk in Kyiv; Editing by Matthias Williams)

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