New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the passport program on Tuesday, March 2. He confirmed that the program had already started testing on Feb. 27 with the Brooklyn Nets game at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
According to a statement from Cuomo's office, the Digital Health Pass works just like a mobile boarding pass – individuals will be able to print it out or download it on their smartphones using the Excelsior Pass' Wallet App. Each pass will come with a secure QR code that will be scanned at the venue using another app to confirm a person's health status.
Cuomo said during a press conference on Wednesday, March 3, that the Wallet App will be available for download on the Google and Apple app store once the program gets approved.
As for security, the governor's office claimed that robust protections are woven throughout the program. Users will be able to use the app without sharing personal data, which Cuomo's office said will be kept confidential. Participation is also voluntary and the QR code only informs a venue whether a pass is valid or not.
The state trialed the program last week with the Brooklyn Mets game at the Barclays Center. It continued testing on Tuesday with the New York Rangers game at Madison Square Garden. Participants of both trials were able to use the pass to confirm their negative COVID-19 tests before entering the premises.
Other states, according to Cuomo's office, could also use the apps to implement a similar program. The flexible technology is designed so that an organization can establish its own criteria, such as COVID-19 test results and temperature scans.
The announcement of the passport came after Cuomo began gradually easing restrictions in New York City, following a drop in positivity rates. Last month, restaurants resumed serving dine-in patrons at 25 percent capacity months after Cuomo banned indoor dining. Theaters will also be allowed to operate at 25 percent capacity starting March 5.
At the same time, Cuomo has also put new precautions in place. Last month, he announced reopening guidelines that require all staff and spectators of major stadiums and arenas to present a negative test three days before an event. (Related: UK citizens may have to present a vaccine passport before entering pubs and restaurants.)
"As we begin reopening the valves on different sectors of our economy, we are putting guidelines in place to ensure individuals attending events involving larger gatherings have tested negative for COVID or have been vaccinated to avoid an outbreak of the virus," Cuomo said during the press conference.
The Excelsior Pass, Cuomo claims, will play an important role in relaying information to venues in a secure and streamlined way, which will fast-track the reopening of businesses and bring New York closer to a new normal.
Experts believe that the passports could be discriminatory and ineffective. Dr. Deepti Gurdasani, an epidemiologist at the Queen Mary University of London, fears that vaccine passports could be used to provide "false assurances" to vacationers.
"[We] know very little about the effectiveness of vaccines in preventing infection or even asymptomatic disease against several variants circulating in different countries," said Gurdasani.
The World Health Organization also discourages the use of vaccine passports. In a statement in January, agency officials implored countries to refrain from introducing proof of vaccination or immunity as a condition of entry.
Vaccine passports could also discriminate against populations that lack sufficient access to vaccines. Liberty, the U.K.'s largest civil liberties organization, noted that there are several suggestions for immunity passports but none addressed the possibility that these would result in human rights abuses.
These comments come as several countries, including the U.S. and the U.K., are considering whether to introduce COVID vaccine passports to be used for traveling abroad, as well as to grant access to venues such as restaurants and bars.
Learn more about the surreptitious ways people are being forced to get vaccinated at Tyranny.news.