• 2021.04.15
  • The Green Pass and The Yellow Card
The other day on March 17, the European Commission (EC), the policy enforcement body of the European Union, released an outline of a certificate that shows your COVID-19 vaccination record.
It’s called the Digital Green Certificate, a vaccine passport that also goes by the name “Green Pass.” The aim is to "facilitate safe free movement of citizens in the EU during the COVID-19 pandemic" and will be valid in all EU Member States.

There seems to be the view in Japan that the movement of people, for example, through the Go To Travel campaign to promote tourism, might not necessarily be related directly to the spread of infection, but in Spain, the authorities have been working to somehow stop the spread by restricting the movement of people within Spain, as well as across its borders, on the basis of their understanding (Note 1) that the movement of people, including travel, is one of the main causes of the spread of the virus.

But with restrictions continuing for more than a year, some European countries, particularly those with a high dependency on tourism, such as Greece and Spain, have issued an urgent appeal saying they don’t want to see a repeat of last year's disastrous situation as they face the summer vacation season, when they make most of their income, and people in other countries are tired of staying at home all year, and rather than having a vacation at home (“staycation”) this summer, they want to enjoy the wonderful sunshine at a Mediterranean or Atlantic beach resort, as they have in the past, they want to forget ordinary, everyday life, let their hair down and party (Although, in the current situation, you wonder whether such tourism pollution might have been an extravagant worry, right?). Seeing as such feelings are growing, a virus vaccination certificate has been planned so as to somehow restore safety and simplicity to tourism and the movement of people within the Member States of the European Union.

Digital Green Certificate (electronic version)

Digital Green Certificate (paper version)

In these examples, the name of the vaccine is Comirnaty, which is the product name in Europe, and the manufacturer name is shown as the German company BioNTech, while the name Pfizer, the company that co-developed the vaccine, does not appear. The Digital Green Certificate is still in the preliminary stage and preparations are underway for it to become available in mid-June, before the start of the summer vacation campaign.

The Digital Green Certificate is proof that the holder:
has been vaccinated against COVID-19, or
has received a negative test result, or
has recovered from COVID-19.

Of course, it is possible to travel and go sightseeing without this certificate, but if you do, you will be forced to comply with the rules and regulations of each country, for example, a two-week quarantine period and checks and so on when arriving in or departing from a country, which is not practical for having a holiday withing a limited period. Of course, vaccination itself is the choice of each person, so carrying this certificate is not compulsory: it’s something that people who wish to make travel easier want to have. It is, therefore, not an equal system for people who do not get vaccinated, but it is a fair system.

This vaccination certificate reminds me of the Yellow Card, which was an international vaccination certificate introduced by the World Health Organization (WHO). It was a travel document you had to carry along with your passport and that you could be asked to present, depending on your period of stay and the country you were entering or going through when traveling overseas. Even now, there are countries where you still need to present this certificate when entering the country or crossing a border to do with yellow fever.

Forgive me for writing about myself, but this is the Yellow Card I have in my possession. It was issued half a century ago in 1972.

Cholera vaccination record

First vaccination: September 2, 1972 (Japan)
2nd vaccination: September 9, 1972 (Japan)
3rd vaccination: January 25, 1977 (Spain)

Smallpox vaccination record

First vaccination: January 26, 1977 (Spain)

Last page

By the way, seeing as the last page is used for "Other vaccines", I got the idea that if you could use it as proof of vaccination against COVID-19, it could also be used as a certificate for international passage authorized in accordance with WHO standards. If this article is noticed by anyone involved in issuing vaccination certificates, I would very much appreciate your consideration of this idea.

Be that as it may, I wonder how it can be that the previous vaccination certificate was yellow, but this new vaccination passport is green.
I guess yellow was probably used for its meaning as a warning, because it symbolizes hazards, or is it simply yellow because it’s “yellow” fever? In soccer matches, yellow cards are issued as a warning, and the yellow traffic light* warns us of a crossing, right?

And, as represented in traffic lights*, green is the “go” sign, or permission to move ahead. By the way, in Japan, traffic light colors are red, yellow, and blue: “green” is called “blue.” In the first place, the Japanese sense of color allows for a wide range of “blue” colors, which may include green. If aojiru (literally, “blue juice”), a health drink to supplement a vegetable deficiency in your diet, were actually blue in color, people would never think of it as a liquid that you drink, and if the phrase "ao-ao to shita midori” (literally, “blue-blue green,” or “fresh and green”, “bright green”, etc.) were translated word for word into a foreign language, you would be likely to wonder whether the person speaking, or the person translating, was confused.

* Under the International Convention on Road Signs and Signals, traffic light colors are red, green, and yellow. And just as the Japanese say “green” is “blue,” it is not uncommon for Spanish people to call the color of the yellow light “ámbar” (amber), which is closer to orange than yellow.

Note 1
January 31, 2020: The first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Spain was on La Gomera in the Canary Islands, a popular resort in Europe as a destination for escaping the cold or the heat, was a male German tourist.
On February 7, 2020, the second positive case confirmed was a British man. The location was the Mediterranean island of Majorca, known for the love escapades of Georges Sand and Chopin, and is a luxury resort home to the holiday villas of celebrities like Michael Douglas.
Many Spanish people probably share the perception that it all started in Wuhan, China, and the virus was brought to Spain by foreign tourists.


  • Susumu Yamada
  • JobSpanish and Japanese Translation

It’s been almost 37 years since I received a residence permit and work permit from the Spanish government and paid my first tax and social insurance premiums. Now that I’m at that age where I will soon go and register at the senior human resources center, I’m grateful to have this opportunity to introduce you all to this country that has taken care of me these many years.

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