Malta and the UK have begun bilateral talks on creating a digital vaccine certificate and "will not be limited" by EU negotiations, Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo has said.

Speaking in parliament, Bartolo said the certificate was already being developed by the Malta Information Technology Agency (MITA) and would be ready by June, when the island plans to reopen for tourism.

“In discussions we had with the UK government, we are already exchanging information in relation to this digital certificate and the components it should have,” Bartolo said.

“If discussions at EU level are still ongoing by summer we will be going into bilateral agreements directly with other countries as is already being done with the UK government,” he added.

Bartolo has previously said that the UK will be a big focus for the COVID-battered industry this summer, with marketing campaigns specifically targetted to British tourists.

The vaccine certificate, developed in conjunction with the health authorities, will include a standard QR code, which is a barcode that allows computers to read information after scanning the code. 

The minister then explained that the pass would be app-based to ensure that “security would be reciprocal” between Malta and any other country which would make use of the certificate.

It would include the dates of the first and second doses of the vaccine, he said. 

“The dates are especially important because the time-frame of the certificate will be based on the date of the second dose, with holders being cleared ten days after their second dose,” Bartolo stated.

“We also want to be sure that the certificates will be tamper-proof so one can rely on it. We want to give peace of mind to those taking the vaccine as well as other stakeholders,” he added.

He did not say whether the app would cater for tourists who could not or would not take the vaccine but could show a negative COVID-19 test.

The app for the vaccine pass is to be designed similarly to the COVID-19 contact tracing app, meaning that it will be “compliant with GDPR regulations” by ensuring personal information would be excluded.

When asked about sponsorships for major events planned throughout this summer and whether any agreements were signed with organizers behind the events, Bartolo stated that “there are no hidden agreements”.

The question, asked by opposition MP David Thake, was based on marketing for events in the summer of 2021 which is being pushed by event organizers. Some of the events, postponed from previous years, are sponsored by both the Malta Tourism Authority (MTA) and Air Malta.

“I’d like to clarify that Air Malta doesn’t fall within my ministry’s remit. Additionally, the MTA has agreements that predate 2020, which the government is planning on honouring if and when we get the go-ahead from health authorities,” Bartolo said.

“There are no hidden agreements which might somehow manipulate the situation in a way that allows these events to occur. It’s not illegal for these organizers to market their events, but holding these events at this moment is,” he added.

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