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Vaccine passports

Good morning! The situation in NSW deteriorated yesterday, with 11 new cases reported including agriculture minister Adam Marshall. No lockdown, but Premier Bereijiklian said "this is perhaps the scariest period that New South Wales is going through", with the police confirming that they will be "moving much further into a compliance and enforcement regime around the order rather than a simple education response".

NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Gary Worboys said that the state's investigation into the airport limo driver, who was at the centre of the initial cluster, will end sometime next week...


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The US S&P500 (+0.58%) and Nasdaq (+0.69%) both hit fresh record highs last night, after enough Republicans agreed to support Biden's $US953 billion infrastructure spending plan.

Fewer jobless: Initial jobless claims in the US were 411,000 for the week ended 19 June, well below the Dow Jones estimate but at least moving in the right direction again. Elsewhere, the final estimate of US March quarter GDP was unchanged at 6.4% while durable goods orders in May (long-lasting items like fridges) came in at 2.3%, below market expectations of 2.7%.

Slightly less transitory: The Bank of England held rates steady at 0.1% overnight but warned "that near-term upward pressure on prices could prove somewhat larger than expected... on one view, forthcoming data had the potential to provide an early indication of sustained economy-wide inflationary pressures".


Vaccine passports

Germany's implementation of the EU's certificate, demonstrated by Jens Spahn, Federal Minister of Health. The QR code is BIG!
Germany's implementation of the EU's certificate, demonstrated by Jens Spahn, Federal Minister of Health. The QR code is BIG! Times Union

The European Union (EU) has started to roll out its Digital Green Certificate, a vaccine passport that "will facilitate safe free movement of citizens in the EU during the COVID-19 pandemic". The certificate uses cryptographically signed QR codes and a scanner app to verify people's vaccination status, with the project open sourced and available on GitHub.

Why this matters: We have the 'advantage' of time in Australia – given our slow vaccination rollout, we can wait and see what other nations do well, and what they do not so well. Once a sufficiently large cohort of Australians have been fully vaccinated (likely somewhere above two thirds), a vaccine passport will become inevitable for international and potentially even domestic travel/events.

Going forward: Hopefully – 🤞 – the Australian government learned a lesson or two from its botched COVIDSafe app, which was a closed-source privacy and security nightmare that appears to have been quietly abandoned because, well, no one uses it.

The EU's approach of using secure QR codes with the source code available online is the correct one, with internet sleuths already digging in and confirming that it "is not a privacy nightmare, as some have feared". By keeping it open it also creates the potential for interoperability with passports from other regions, which could be an important feature for international travel in particular.

The Wrap Up

  • Singapore's government said once "at least two-thirds of our population [is] fully vaccinated", it will shift to a new normal where COVID-19 will be managed "as a recurring, controllable disease", such as it does with the common flu. Sounds sensible.
  • Virgin joined Qantas in offering incentives for vaccinated travellers. However, its lotteries will not open until all Australian adults are eligible for vaccination. You can register your interest here.
  • Health Department modelling suggests that the government is expecting to phase out use of the AstraZeneca vaccine by October.
  • Using archived files stored on Google Cloud, a Seattle-based scientist discovered 13 early coronavirus sequences in Wuhan that had been deleted from a Chinese database last year. The deletion has been confirmed by US government officials.
  • New Zealand won the inaugural World Test Championship after India's batting line-up c0llpased on Day 6. 👏
  • If you don't hold the keys, you don't hold the coins. "A pair of South African brothers have vanished, along with Bitcoin worth $3.6 billion from their cryptocurrency investment platform."
  • China hit back against Australia's World Trade Organisation complaint, lodging its own "accusing Australia of anti-competitive behaviour against its exports of railway wheels, stainless-steel sinks and wind towers".
  • Wesley College – a prestigious Melbourne private school – used a $18.2 million JobKeeper windfall to waive costs, offer parents discounts of 20% and make "a $5m transfer to its scholarship fund".
  • Israel Folau will return to rugby league in Australia after settling a contract dispute with his former club.
  • A 12-storey apartment block in Florida partially collapsed, killing at least one person with 100 still missing.