Plague spawns European Health Pass

At present, the new coronavirus vaccination is actively carried out globally. In order to promote economic recovery and resume cross-border travel, the European Commission recently announced a proposal for a “vaccine passport”. This “health passport” has received widespread attention and has also caused great controversy. In fact, the “vaccine passport” is not the first. As early as the 15th century European plague pandemic, a health pass similar to a “vaccine passport” appeared.

Health Pass appeared in Milan in 1484

From 1347 to 1352, the “Black Death” epidemic swept across Europe, causing approximately 75 to 200 million deaths in Europe, accounting for 30%-60% of the total European population at that time. Plague is transmitted to humans by fleas that carry Yersinia pestis. In Europe at that time, the plague could not be controlled because of the low level of technology and medical health. Therefore, the epidemic situation continued to spread between various countries, and most of it spread along the trade routes of the time. From 1347 to 1351, the epidemic reached its peak, especially in European trading ports. The Black Death also kicked off the second plague pandemic in the world, which lasted until the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century.

Faced with the unprecedented tragic and recurring epidemic, the entire European population is panicked and chaotic. In fact, most people at the time were powerless against the plague, and the only effective way was to escape the epidemic area. However, in the face of an unprecedented crisis, Europe has not been completely swallowed up. The organized fight against the epidemic in Europe started in Italy. During the “Black Death” epidemic, Italy implemented quarantine measures, established infectious disease hospitals, and established an epidemic notification system. These measures have achieved remarkable results. The term “quarantine” (Quarantine) originated in Italy during the Black Death.

In order to quarantine and strictly restrict travel, in the 15th century, European countries and regions such as Italy began to print and issue health passes. According to research, the earliest known health pass can be traced back to Milan, Italy in 1484. During the epidemic, whether traveling between different cities or between different countries, relevant personnel need a health pass to “escort”. In Italy, which is “highly guarded”, only the necessary health passage documents are allowed to enter the city. In 1594, an Englishman who traveled to Italy, Fiennes Morrison, once recorded his own experience: If you want to enter Italy, you must bring a health pass, and you must show it in every city you pass by to prove that you have no germs. danger.

Health Pass contains multiple information

Countries use both printing and handwriting methods to help people who need to travel issue documents to prove their health. The most common health pass at the time was a printed document of various sizes, the most typical being a paper document about 10-14 cm long and 8-10 cm wide. Individual health passes of larger sizes are specially designed for some travel groups. A health pass may record the common information of two to three or even more people traveling together. Under normal circumstances, the printed health pass has the following components: the name of the health pass, the badge of the issuing agency and the reminder of free issuance, the holder is not from a city where the virus has spread, the destination for the holder, etc. Travel details Information, the specific date of issuance and the name of the issuing authority.

Restricted by technical conditions, the European Health Pass at the time did not have photos, fingerprints, and other information that could prove the identity of the holder. It only included height, hair color, and other text describing the traveler’s appearance, as well as information such as age. Few health passes have more detailed descriptions, such as eye color, facial features, and clothing features. This information is the authentication of the traveler’s identity by government agencies under the historical conditions at that time, but from the perspective of contemporary people, it is difficult to be accurate in this information.

In order to prevent fraud, the health pass at that time strengthened its authority through a combination of text and pictures. For example, the complicated images on the certificate can increase the difficulty of imitation, and the specific representative symbols of each city can help the inspectors more easily understand the route traveled by. At the same time, most health passes are also stamped with a specific seal. With the passage of time, the design of health passes has become more and more complicated, and the information covered has become more and more diverse and complex. At the end of the 18th century, some cities numbered health passes and improved the control of such certificates.

The health pass system also stipulates the obligations of other citizens. For example, in 1711, the city of Hamburg issued a decree prohibiting local hotel operators from accepting any undocumented travelers; in Padua, Italy, hotels that illegally accommodate undocumented people will be fined. European countries and local government agencies hope to build a second line of defense beyond border health personnel.

The Health Pass is a printed form file, but it is designed to write the necessary information manually. Health passes are issued free of charge, but there have been cases in which issuers or inspectors in individual cities charge fees in violation of regulations. In order to put an end to this kind of fraud and prevent some people from profiting from it, various administrative authorities have also taken some measures. For example, starting in 1580, a striking reminder of “free distribution” was added to the top of the pass. In addition, some governments have printed the name and position of the entry checker on the pass to clarify responsibilities.

If travelers travel between different countries, the text recognition on the health pass becomes a problem. Historical data show that the authorities of various countries have carefully considered and studied this issue. The content on the pass is mainly written in one type of text, but the keywords in it are very similar in the languages ​​of different European countries, or there is a translation at the back, so that it is convenient for the people of the country of entry to check.

Implications for today’s fight against the epidemic

Until the 18th century, the plague was a major public issue that European governments continued to worry about and anxiously. This infectious disease increases the health risks faced by humans. Out of fear and worries about the virus, the resulting mistrust in different countries, cities, and people has also been deepening. The importance of health passes is to help people in different regions build a certain degree of trust. It marks the continual maturity of European public health policies and strengthens the coordination of the European epidemic prevention system to balance human needs while avoiding health risks as much as possible.

In the face of the new crown pneumonia epidemic, the measures taken by Italy and other countries to control the plague are still enlightening. After experiencing the plague, European governments gradually realized the importance and necessity of information sharing, communication and cooperation. In the European continent at that time, in a considerable geographical area, including now Italy, France, Switzerland and other countries, all participated in the “collective epidemic prevention system” of the health pass. In addition, historians believe that the Black Death prompted the expansion and improvement of public health measures in Europe and other parts of the world, and some methods to prevent the spread of the plague are still being implemented.