It has been a little over a year since the initial identification of SARS Cov-2. As the virus spread globally, national governments developed a broad assortment of travel restrictions, border closures, limitations on the transportation of goods and other efforts to contain the virus’s spread. Global supply chains and travel for business and pleasure alike have been severely disrupted, creating a forecasted drop in global GDP of some $22 Trillion between 2021-2025 according to International Monetary Fund chief Gita Gopinath.
Initiatives to Safely Reopen Borders for Travel and TradeWith the expansion of testing availability and international vaccination campaigns ramping up, countries face the challenge of how to safely reopen borders for commerce and travel. Airlines and nations often require COVID-19 test results for travel, but there is no standardized system for verification or how results can be shared safely and reliably. The fragmented set of requirements varies by country for entry and exit, along with the range of different test results considered acceptable has created a confusing landscape for immigration officials and passengers alike.
The Role of Digital SolutionsIt’s within this context that several transnational initiatives have arisen to leverage digital technology as one way to harmonize standards in verifying passenger data before flight. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is working to launch the IATA Travel Pass, a standardized application with the means to verify the authenticity of tests and the identity of those presenting them, plus the ability for airlines to provide accurate information to their passengers on test requirements needed for travel. The platform enables laboratories with the means to issue certificates to passengers that will be recognized by governments and provides travelers with information on test requirements, where they can get tested or vaccinated and the means to securely convey test information to airlines and border authorities. Another initiative is called CommonPass, launched by the Commons Project and the World Economic Forum which allows travelers to present documentation of their laboratory test or vaccination results. The platform assesses whether the user’s vaccination records and lab results are from a trusted source and also if they satisfy the health screening requirements of the country they want to enter, providing a basic Yes/No answer as to whether the criteria are satisfied, but without revealing any of the underlying personal health information. The application securely accesses existing health data systems, national or local registries or personal digital health records such as Apple Health™ or CommonHealth for Android™.
In Israel, the Health Ministry is rolling out it’s Green Passport program that will allow people who have been vaccinated to participate in certain activities like entering a registered gym, theater, concert venue, hotel or synagogue. The Green Passport is granted to those who are at least one week past their second coronavirus vaccination, and to the approximately 740,000 individuals who have recovered from the virus but are not currently eligible for vaccination. The passport is valid for a six-month period following the second vaccination. Similar to other platforms, this allows users to download a smartphone application from the health ministry, register their personal details and present their passport, or a print-out version for scanning and validation at the store or business.
Planning AheadAs with most topics COVID-19 related, travel pass programs are new, variable by country, and subject to evolving requirements and regulations. It will be important for any traveler to keep updated on the requirements for testing and vaccination status documentation not only with their airline, hotel and destination country, but also country of residency for their return. Nonetheless, the initiatives noted above represent a significant advancement in our ability to resume the global flow of goods, knowledge and tourism which have been dramatically impacted by the pandemic.
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