WHO launches global digital health network based on EU Covid certs

6 Jun 2023

Image: © Goffkein/Stock.adobe.com

The new system based on the ‘gold standard’ EU Covid certificates is expected to help future human mobility and prevent potential pandemics.

Less than a month ahead of the second anniversary of the now-defunct EU Covid certificate, the European Commission has launched a landmark global digital health network.

In partnership with the World Health Organisation (WHO), the initiative is using the EU certification system established during the pandemic to create a new global system that aims to “facilitate mobility and protect citizens across the world from ongoing and future health threats”.

The move marks the first building block of WHO’s global digital health certification network starting this month.

“This partnership will include close collaboration in the development, management and implementation of the WHO system, benefitting from the European Commission’s ample technical expertise in the field,” the commission wrote in a statement yesterday (5 June).

As a first step, the two organisations will ensure that current EU digital certificates continue to function effectively. Over time, more digital products will be added as part of the initiative to further global health and prepare for any future pandemics.

WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom said the open-source digital health tool is “based on the principles of equity, innovation, transparency, data protection and privacy”.

“New digital health products in development aim to help people everywhere receive quality health services quickly and more effectively,” said Adhanom, who struck a deal with EU commissioner Stella Kyriakides last November to cooperate on global health issues.

Kyriakides said that the EU certificate was an essential tool for safe travel during the pandemic and a sign of success for the bloc.

“With this landmark partnership with the WHO we are scaling up EU innovation in digital health to deliver safe mobility for all citizens across the globe. There is no better partner than the WHO to advance the work we started in the EU and further develop global digital health solutions.”

Nearly 80 countries and territories are currently connected to the EU digital Covid certificate, which is seen by many as a global standard for health status certification.

“The EU certificate has not only been an important tool in our fight against the pandemic but has also facilitated international travel and tourism,” added internal markets commissioner Thierry Breton.

“WHO will build on the privacy-preserving principles and cutting-edge technology of the EU certificate to create a global tool against future pandemics.”

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic