Denmark calls for bids to build digital coronavirus passports

Denmark has called for bids to build a new corona passport app that can show holders' vaccination and antibody status, and PCR and rapid test results, with the winner having just over two months to deliver.

Denmark calls for bids to build digital coronavirus passports
A coronavirus passport might allow audiences to return to the Royal Danish Theatre. Photo: Niels Christian Vilmann/Ritzau Scanpix

“The goal is for the coronavirus passport to contribute to a gradual, safe and effective reopening of Denmark,” the country’s Agency for Digitization, wrote in a press release announcing the tender.

“The specific applications will, among other things, depend on the assessment of health professionals. The solution will be developed in partnership with business and cultural organisations to ensure that it meets their individual demands.”

Denmark’s government was in February one of the first countries to announce plans for a digital coronavirus passport. It has now divided the work into two parts: developing a “user-friendly” app, and updating the health system’s IT infrastructure so that it can as seamlessly as possible transfer the required information.

As the app is intended to be shown at borders while travelling, the developer will also need to ensure that the app meets EU requirements for coronavirus passports. 

The agency has already held meetings with four companies to discuss the project, the US IT giant IBM, the Danish IT companies Netcompany and Trifork, and the Norwegian IT firm Visma.

The company that wins the bidding will be expected to deliver the finished app in May.

Jan Hessellund, chief executive of Billund airport, told the Ritzau newswire that the coronavirus passport could be “the return of travel as we knew it before Covid-19. It will be really good for us,” she said.

Rikke Zeberg, head of digitization at the Confederation of Danish Industry, said that the passport could allow a wide range businesses to reopen.

“Together with vaccines, the coronavirus passport is a crucial tool for reopening society, just as it will be one of the most important tools for ensuring a sustained reopening and avoiding a new wave of closures,” she said.

“With a vaccine or rapid test result and a coronavirus passport in hand, you could, for example, go to the cinema, go to university, or get on a plane with a minimal risk of bringing the infection with you.”

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‘Forever chemical’ PFAS found in organic eggs in Denmark

Most Danish egg producers said on Monday they would no longer use fish meal in feed for organic hens after the pollutant chemical PFAS was detected in eggs.

‘Forever chemical’ PFAS found in organic eggs in Denmark

Danske Æg, an industry organisation representing around 90 percent of producers in the country, said in a statement that fish meal would no longer be used as a result of the discovery.

“In consideration of food safety we have stopped using fish meal,” Danske Æg sector director Jørgen Nyberg Larsen said in the statement.

A study conducted by the DTU National Food Institute (DTU Fødevareinstituttet) and the Danish Veterinary and Food Association (Fødevarestyrelsen) found a high PFAS content in egg yolks from hen farms across Denmark.

The chemical was transferred to the eggs from fish meal, which is used in feed for the hens, the study concluded.

“We take the situation very seriously because food safety is crucial for all of us. We are therefore no removing fish meal from organic eggs and putting all our efforts towards better understanding the situation,” Larsen said. 

What are PFAS? 

PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are a large group of synthetic chemicals used in various products since the early 1950s. Their past uses include foam in fire extinguishers, food packaging and in textiles, carpets and paints. Also known as ‘forever chemicals’, they persist in water and soil and can cause harm to human health. 

Due to their chemical properties, they take a long time to break down and can be found in very low concentrations in blood samples from populations all over the world.

They are, however, unwanted in the environment because they have been found to have concerning links to health complications. Their use in materials which come into contact with foods, like paper and card, has been banned in Denmark since 2020.

PFAS have been linked to a series of health complications and, if ingested in high enough amounts, are suspected of causing liver damage, kidney damage, elevated cholesterol levels, reduced fertility, hormonal disturbances, weaker immune systems, negatively affecting foetal development and being carcinogenic.

READ ALSO: PFAS pollution: What do people living in Denmark need to know?

DTU National Food Institute said that the issue with the chemical making its way into eggs can be solved by changing the feed given to hens.

“We are already in close dialogue with the animal feed industry and work is ongoing on measures that will eliminate the problem. We note that DTU also has suggested solutions and we will naturally look at those,” Larsen said.

“But right now, we are putting a stop to fish meal so that consumers can also feel comfortable with organic eggs in the short term. After that, we can naturally look at a permanent fix,” he said.

Supermarket company Coop said on Monday that it had no plans to remove organic eggs from its shelves as a result of the detection of PFAS.

The company, which owns the SuperBrugsen, Irma and Kvickly grocery store chains, told news wire Ritzau it had been in contact with its suppliers of organic eggs to confirm that the level of PFAS in the eggs does not exceed the permitted amount.