December 17, 2020
What will international travel be like in a post-pandemic world? Though this question remains to be fully answered, one thing many agree upon is that DIGITAL HEALTH PASSPORTS could help open up international travel faster.
Health Passports are nothing but immunity certificates that provide digital proof (through an antibody test) that a traveler is COVID-free. Currently, governments & companies are working together to develop systems that will enable travelers to demonstrate that they are COVID-free at the time of transit. The goal is to reduce or even replace reliance on burdensome & costly practices such as quarantine, which tend to discourage travel, and allow travelers the ability to travel more freely.
There are various digital passport platforms under development. “CommonPass” Digital Health Passport is one such platform, a collaboration between the World Economic Forum (WEF), the Commons Project Foundation and public & private partners from 40 countries. It has already been launched in a limited fashion. The first trial was in October 2020 for passengers on United Airlines & Cathay Pacific Airlines flights between London, New York, Hong Kong and Singapore. This month the trial is being expanded to JetBlue, Lufthansa, Swiss International Airlines, United Airlines and Virgin Atlantic. US customs & Border Protection and Disease Control & Prevention are observing the trials & looking at the multitude of logistical, legal and safety factors at play. If all goes well with current trials, CommonPass usage will be expanded for flights departing & arriving from cities in Asia, Africa, the Americas, Europe and the Middle East.
While there have been concerns raised about privacy & data protection, CommonPass does comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). It only provides officials with a “Yes” or “No” answer regarding whether a passenger has met current entry screening requirements for a destination. Officials do not see any other information about the passenger’s health background.
Steve Morrissey, vice president of United Airlines says that – “trials with solutions like CommonPass are critical to demonstrate the potential for testing as an alternative to blanket quarantine measures or travel restrictions”.
With countries across the globe considering health passports, it is clear that we are heading towards a world where your health will be linked directly to your ability to travel.
Other digital passports in development include the “Ink Digital Health Platform”, the “AOKpass” and “goPassport”.
Some experts are skeptical about the ability of health passports to stimulate global travel. One reason is that a relatively small proportion of the world population will be vaccinated in 2021. On top of limited vaccine availability, there are significant pockets of resistance to the prospect of getting vaccinated at all in several countries. For example, a recent Gallop poll found that only 58% of Americans say they will get the vaccine. If this were to happen, destinations that would require a health passport from travelers will lose out on a substantial number of would-be tourists from such countries, and airlines would be similarly affected.
Also, as exciting as it is that several travel passes are in the final stages of development, there is potential for confusion and logistical delays as a result of competition to be the default pass for global travel. Hopefully, one clear winner will emerge from the different platforms being developed.
Source : ICEF