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COVID-19 Passport Launched

New York City launches a Blockchain-Powered COVID-19 passport.

Last Wednesday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the launch of Excelsior Pass, a blockchain-powered COVID-19 passport to use in the state starting Friday April 2.

“New Yorkers have proven they can follow public health guidance to beat back COVID,” Governor Cuomo declared in an official statement, “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.”

Governments from around the world are contemplating the idea of “COVID-19 passports,” a proof that a person is vaccinated or has recently tested negative for COVID-19. However, privacy risks and concerns about the practicality of paperwork are often cited as downsides.

Cuomo stated that the Excelsior Pass is the answer to many of those concerns: it is built on IBM’s blockchain-based digital health pass platform, and so the blockchain meant that IBM keeps no database of health records.

“Secure technologies, like blockchain and encryption, are woven throughout Excelsior Pass to help protect the data, making it verifiable and trusted,” declares an official statement from the governor. “No private health data is stored or tracked within the apps.”

The governor’s office stated that the pass will be “similar to a mobile airline boarding pass,” and it will be able to confirm the scanned person’s negative COVID-19 test result (PCR or antigen) or proof of vaccination.

The General Manager of IBM Public and Federal Market, Steve LaFleche, stated in a blog post early this month that the pass will allow New Yorkers to share the status of their health.

“Each participant will determine what information they want to share, with whom, when and for what purpose – without sharing the underlying personal data used to generate the credential,” he said.

New York will be the first state to introduce COVID-19 passports. However, LaFleche predicts that the open standards of blockchain technology will “allow other states to join the effort,” letting the re-opening of the economy nationwide.

The blockchain COVID-19 pass is now fully subsidized by the state of New York and provided its free use by voluntarily participating businesses.

The major venues that will adopt the blockchain COVID-19 pass include the Madison Square Garden in New York City and also the Times Union Center in Albany.

Ever since the beginning of the pandemic, New York has confirmed 1.84 million cases and 49,446 deaths related to COVID-19, according to data from Google’s COVID-19 tracker. Over 7.5 million New Yorkers have been vaccinated as of this week.

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