Proposal to expand use of COVID-19 passport requires legal assessment
The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health has received a statement from the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare on expanding the use of the COVID-19 passport. In its statement, the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare proposes, for example, that the COVID-19 passport also be used to ascertain the fitness for work of healthcare and social welfare personnel, i.e. that personnel performing certain care and healthcare duties are vaccinated.
The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health considers the proposal an interesting initiative, particularly when it comes to protecting the most vulnerable people from COVID-19. In the most vulnerable people and those who are not vaccinated, COVID-19 can cause severe illness requiring hospital care and, in the worst case, lead to death. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health will assess the proposal of the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare together with other responsible ministries as part of the wider preparatory work on the expanded use of the COVID-19 passport.
According to the statement, expanding the use of the passport could be a quick way to protect patients and colleagues from COVID-19 infection. However, the proposal submitted by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare contains shortcomings when it comes to the possibility of laying down provisions in the law on the proposed solution. The proposal does not include a proper assessment of the legislative framework conditions of the proposal. This is a matter of principle with far-reaching effects, and it must be assessed with due regard to both the rights of care personnel and questions related to labour law.
Before the scope of the provisions on the COVID-19 passport can be expanded to apply to care personnel, an overall assessment must be carried out from the perspective of equality and the prohibition of discrimination, personal integrity, the right to privacy and the protection of personal data. Fundamental rights also include the freedom to engage in commercial activity and the right to work. The provisions on the COVID-19 passport include the right to process people’s health data, which is why account must also be taken of the General Data Protection Regulation and the Act on the Protection of Privacy in Working Life when assessing the matter.
If the scope of the provisions on the COVID-19 passport were expanded to apply to care personnel, the effects and consequences of this should be assessed, for example, from the perspective of what it would mean for employees if they did not have a COVID-19 passport and what would be done in situations where employees cannot get vaccinated for health reasons.
The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health has requested the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare as an expert agency to assess the feasibility of the proposal with regard to the framework conditions as this would create a more solid basis for the proposal in both legislative drafting and public discussion. As an expert agency, the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare has a significant role in providing reliable information and expert views.
Pasi Pohjola, Director, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, [email protected]