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New York Governor Cuomo announces vaccine passports

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While the highly controversial issue of introducing so-called Covid passports is being deliberated in many parts of the world, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo seems to have made up his mind: this US state has started to test one.

The scheme, called the Excelsior Pass, is currently a pilot project that will be tested in Madison Square Garden and Barclays Center, Cuomo announced in a statement, adding that the first test was carried out during a basketball game at Barclays Center on February 28.

The technology is developed with IBM, and involves what Cuomo says is a secure way to transfer confidential data that will prove the holder of this “coronavirus passport” has either been vaccinated or has a recent negative test. People will have to show a QR code that contains this information – either printed or stored on their phones.

The goal is to eventually make this a requirement for entering areas where a large number of people gather, such as stadiums and theaters. These venues will be provided with an app to be used to scan the QR code.

But reports note that Cuomo is currently embroiled in a political struggle to keep his emergency powers, which New York legislature is seeking to remove because of a series of scandals – including deliberate underreporting of Covid deaths in nursing homes as a ploy during the presidential election, and sexual harassment accusations – that have hit his administration recently.

This means that Cuomo, if the state senate votes to strip him of his powers, may not be able to implement the coronavirus passport scheme.

For now, this Democrat is talking it up as a way to speed up reopening of businesses that cater to larger gatherings of people, in order to let New Yorkers achieve their “new normal.”

IMB General Manager Steve LaFleche said that other states could follow New York’s example and start using what he referred to as “a simple, secure, and voluntary” way of proving that a person has tested negatively, or has been vaccinated against Covid.

In his statement, Cuomo promises “robust privacy protections” based on “an encrypted digital smartphone wallet or printed credential” – while those using the pass will not be sharing their personal medical data, he said.

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