New York launches vaccine passport app in bid to restart live events

The 'Excelsior Pass' is aiming to help "fast-track the reopening of businesses and event venues" in the US state

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced the launch of a new digital vaccine passport in a bid to restart live events safely in the US state.

Designed in partnership with IBM, New York’s ‘Excelsior Pass’ is a free but voluntary platform that uses proven and secure technology to confirm if an individual has either been fully vaccinated against coronavirus or has recently tested negative for the virus.

It’s hoped that the launch of the app, which will provide each user with a QR code much like a boarding pass that venues and businesses can scan before permitting entry, will help “fast-track the reopening of businesses and event venues in accordance with New York State Department of Health guidelines”.

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The launch of the ‘Excelsior Pass’ makes New York the first US state to introduce such a service. The passport was recently trialled during two successful pilot demonstrations, along with a beta test where thousands of New Yorkers participated in a limited roll-out of the technology to provide feedback on user interface and results.

“New Yorkers have proven they can follow public health guidance to beat back COVID, and the innovative Excelsior Pass is another tool in our new toolbox to fight the virus while allowing more sectors of the economy to reopen safely and keeping personal information secure,” Governor Cuomo said.

“The question of ‘public health or the economy’ has always been a false choice — the answer must be both. As more New Yorkers get vaccinated each day and as key public health metrics continue to regularly reach their lowest rates in months, the first-in-the-nation Excelsior Pass heralds the next step in our thoughtful, science-based reopening.”

The ‘Excelsior Pass’ is available for iPhone and Android users, and QR codes can either be printed out or stored on smartphones. A “special emphasis” was placed on data privacy during the development process, with “secure technologies, like blockchain and encryption, woven throughout ‘Excelsior Pass’ to help protect the data, making it verifiable and trusted”. No private health data will be stored or tracked by the app.

Major venues like Madison Square Garden in New York City and the Times Union Center in Albany will be among the first to utilise the technology, while “smaller arts, entertainment and event venues” will be able to make use of the ‘Excelsior Pass’ from April 2 onwards.

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Similar digital ‘health passports’ are set to be trialled in the UK in an effort to restart live music safely this year, with test events at London’s 100 Club and Bristol’s The Exchange aiming to examine the effectiveness of the app You Check.

A number of venues in Liverpool are also set to take part in a pilot scheme to test crowd safety before coronavirus lockdown rules are set to be eased in the UK this summer.

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