In 2020, COVID-19 wreaked havoc on the global travel industry and the aviation sector was hit the hardest, with nearly all countries halting international flights to contain the spread of the virus. While restrictions are gradually being lifted to facilitate travel between different countries, international air traffic is still at its lowest since September 11. Various countries, independent agencies and airlines are looking for ways to make air travel easier and more accessible.
One of the recent emerging trends is called the COVID-19 passport, a kind of travel card that digitally contains all vaccinations and medical records for a hassle-free travel experience. Recently, Emirates partnered with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to become one of the first airlines in the world to test the IATA Travel Pass.
So what is this COVID-19 travel pass / passport and do you get one? We answer your frequently asked questions-
What is the COVID-19 Passport or Travel Pass?
It is a mobile application to help passengers easily and securely manage their travel in accordance with all government requirements for COVID-19 testing or vaccine information. A Travel Pass allows passengers to create a “digital passport” to verify that their pre-travel test or vaccination meets the requirements of the destination. They will also be able to share vaccination tests and certificates with authorities and airlines to facilitate travel.
The app also enables travelers to manage all travel documents digitally and seamlessly throughout the travel experience. It is said that in 2021, the passport for the COVID-19 vaccine will become one of the most important travel documents.
Where did the idea come from?
While there is no concrete answer to who came up with the idea for the Travel Pass for future aviation needs, airlines like Emirates can be credited with launching such a service at the very first phase. However, the mass appeal to implement the COVID-19 passport can be credited to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). Zurab Pololikashvili, UNWTO Secretary General, recently called for the global adoption of vaccination passports for a safe resumption of international travel.
This is not the first time that the idea of carrying an additional travel document has surfaced. A yellow card was essential proof of yellow fever vaccination at the time. This protocol was initiated 88 years ago after the first international certificate of inoculation and vaccination was established by the International Sanitary Convention for Air Navigation in 1933 in The Hague, the Netherlands, and later adopted by the World Health Organization. A ticket is essentially a digital form of a yellow card.
Which countries have deployed the Vaccine Passport?
Iceland: The Nordic state became the first country to issue vaccination certificates. All citizens who have received two doses of the vaccine are now eligible for a digital certificate.
Denmark: The country’s Ministry of Health and Seniors has said it is working on a “vaccination passport” for Danish travelers traveling to countries where vaccination becomes compulsory for entry.
Israel: The Israeli Ministry of Health has unveiled a green passport that allows people already vaccinated to travel and be part of large gatherings. The passport is both digital and physical.
Hungary: The Eastern European country is working on obtaining “immunity passports”, proving that the traveler has never contracted a virus or has antibodies in his body.
Greece: Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has asked the European Commission to introduce a vaccination certificate in order to facilitate movement between the bloc.
Global agencies offering Travel Passes
IATA: The International Air Transport Association is working with the World Health Organization to develop a secure vaccine pass that will be tamper-proof. Called the IATA Travel Pass, Emirates has already partnered with IATA to deploy a mobile application to create a “digital passport”.
CommonPass: CommonPass is launched by The Commons Project, the World Economic Forum and a coalition of public and private partners. Almost 2,000 airports under the International Airport Council have signed up to use CommonPass.
AOKPass: The International Chamber of Commerce is testing the AOKpass which provides a digitally authenticated, secure and portable copy of your medical records. Singapore has already tested the AOKPass, becoming the first country to do so.
Challenges in implementing the COVID-19 passport
While the idea of implementing a global ticket is enough to praise easy travel in the future, not everyone agrees to accept the new standard. The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) has called the mandatory vaccination passport “discriminatory.” The WTTC says testing travelers before traveling to prove they are Covid-free is a better solution.
“The most vulnerable groups should be given priority, a general vaccination requirement would simply discriminate against non-vulnerable groups, such as Gen X, Z and Millennials, who should be able to travel with proof of a COVID test. negative. Gloria Guevara, WTTC President and CEO, said.
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