Is Germany About to Take A Leaf Out of China’s COVID-19 Digital Playbook?

Germany’s health minister unveils plans to launch a color-coded digital app to confirm citizens’ COVID-19 vaccination status. Different colors will confer different rights.

The German people’s vaccination status will soon be “recognizable by color,” thanks to an upgrade to the Health Ministry’s Corona-Warn-App, reports German newspaper Berliner Zeitung. “Different colors will give different rights in the future,” the article notes, adding that a similar “system already exists in China.” Which is hardly comforting, especially given how some Chinese authorities appear to be abusing that system.

While many EU countries, including even neighboring Austria, have softened or suspended their COVID-19 vaccine passport restrictions, Germany’s Health Minister Karl Lauterbach seems determined to take them to a new level. This week, he unveiled Germany’s Corona plans for the autumn in the latest iteration of the so-called “Infection Protection Act”. Some of the proposed plans have not gone down well with the public. Even politicians and some newspapers are kicking up a stink.

Different Colors, Different Rights

Most controversial of all is the Health Ministry’s plan to repurpose the Corona-Warn-App into a color-coded system as a means of more easily corroborating people’s vaccination status. As already mentioned, the app’s different colors will confer different rights in the future. Those rights will apparently include the ability to access certain public places as well as the right not to wear a mask in hospitality venues. In order to qualify, you need to have been vaccinated in the past three months or have recently recovered from infection.

Lauterbach has previously stated that forcing the unvaccinated or undervaccinated to wear a mask in public — almost like a badge of shame — might cause them to reconsider their position on the vaccines: “It will certainly be an incentive… to think about whether they would like to be vaccinated.”

All of this no doubt sounds familiar to American readers. After all, it is a virtual replica of the Biden Administration’s “Mission Accomplished” mask reversal back in May ’21. As Yves noted at the time, “the CDC [thought] it was reasonable to operate on a vaccination honor system and have the vaccinated ditch masks and social distancing.” That was despite the fact that only 35% of Americans were fully vaccinated and it was not yet known whether “breakthrough” asymptomatic cases could spread the disease.

Now, we know they can. We also know that the current crop of vaccines do precious little when it comes to actually protecting against transmission of the virus. Lauterbach himself knows this from first-hand experience, given he is currently grappling with his second  COVID-19 infection — despite having received four shots of COVID-19 vaccines. Given what he knows about the vaccines’ leaky nature, encouraging, or perhaps better put, compelling recently vaccinated people to dump their masks makes zero sense from a public health perspective — unless, of course, the only goal is to maximize vaccination.

Of course, by the time the draft law is in place, in early October, Pfizer-BioNtech may have already launched its new Omicron-adapted vaccine. For the moment, the average rate of uptake for a second booster among adults in the EU is extremely low, at just 7.5%. That compares to 64% for the first booster. Of course, Lauterback’s policy proposals may help to boost demand for the largely German-manufactured product once it does hit the market.

Color-Coded Control

Germany’s color-coded app was developed by SAP and T-Systems, the IT services arm of Deutsche Telekom, and is an update on the previous system that showed whether someone falls into the 3G, 2G or 2G-plus (Germany’s Covid pass rules) category. A color coded system will apparently make it quicker and easier to process vaccine passport holders.

With the contract for the app set to expire at the end of 2022, its developers have been lobbying for the contract to be extended and its applications expanded, reports Der Spiegel. They argue that the app’s high level of support among the scientific and medical communities and its wide installation base mean that “it is far too good for a place in the Museum of Communication.” They would much prefer it either to be recalibrated as a general federal warning app or to be expanded to include the electronic patient file (ePA) of every citizen. So far, the health ministry has rejected these proposals…

Read the full article on Naked Capitalism

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