Australia’s new Digital Passenger Declaration (DPD)—due later this year—might be getting a COVID upgrade.

Discussing the return of international students recently, Education Minister Alan Tudge said that digital vaccine certificates could provide a pathway into Australian universities without a need for quarantine.

The proposal relies on finding a way to link verified COVID-19 vaccine certificates to the federal government’s new digitised system for incoming passenger cards that the Travel Authority reported on last year.

The federal government has been looking very carefully at the concept of a ‘vaccination passport’, given some countries are already rolling out COVID-19 vaccines.

“We—and our clients—are encouraged by these initiatives,” says The Travel Authority Group’s CEO, Peter Hosper.

“The travel industry is stuck in a holding pattern just waiting for the green light for people to travel safely again. There is so much pent-up demand. We encourage more innovative thinking like this as the global economy needs people travelling once again,” Hosper added.

Mr Tudge stressed that numerous preconditions would need to be satisfied before any such scheme could be considered, including availability of an effective vaccine.

“If a vaccine works and stops the spread, and it can be rolled out effectively in source countries and we can have surety over vaccination certificates, then there is the potential to be able to bring in more international students without them having to quarantine,” Mr Tudge told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

“In part, that would be facilitated by the fact that we’re digitising the incoming passenger card. Our aspiration is that we would then be able to electronically staple an authenticated, biometrically connected vaccination certification to that card,” the Minister added.

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