Business travelers, vacationers, and the entire travel industry are painfully aware that the COVID-19 pandemic virtually shut down travel in March 2020. But travel is a major global economic driver and a necessity for many businesses. Intensive cleaning protocols for airlines, hotels, and ground transportation operators emerged and public safety measures were publicized to help people get moving again. Nine months later, several vaccines are on the imminent horizon and travel is slowly resuming, although many borders remain closed. The key to fully restarting international travel will be the digital health passport.
What is a Digital Health Passport?
Several groups are in the process of developing and testing a digital health passport, sometimes referred to as the “COVID passport.” The idea is a digital repository for a traveler’s negative virus test results and inoculation record.
The CommonPass is another digital health passport developed collaboratively by the World Economic Forum, the nonprofit Commons Project Foundation, and public and private partners from 37 countries. It began trials with Cathay Pacific Airways and United Airlines on flights between Hong Kong, Singapore, London, and New York. In December, JetBlue, Lufthansa, Swiss International Airlines, United Airlines, and Virgin Atlantic will begin using it for select flights between New York, Boston, London, and Hong Kong.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has a digital health passport called Travel Pass in development and testing with British Airways. Travelers and governments can get the app at no cost and it should roll out to Apple devices in the first quarter of 2021 and Android devices in April. In addition to health information, the app will contain national rules for entry and a link to an electronic copy of the user’s passport. It employs blockchain technology, without storing any data.
A medical and security services company, International SOS, worked with the International Chamber of Commerce in developing the AOKpass. It stores digital health passport information using blockchain technology and is in use between Pakistan and Abu Dhabi this fall. More routes are expected.
Ink Aviation, an airline and airport technology company, partnered with Tento Health to provide digital health credentials accessed via physical passports, biometrics, or health wallet QR codes. Their Ink Digital Health Platform is compatible with all departure and immigration systems and other digital health passports.
Do You Need a COVID Passport?
Currently, many governments require negative test results for entry, or the traveler must quarantine. Until a vaccine is widely available, many see verified testing as essential to moving beyond quarantine measures and getting international travel open,
Even if your destination does not require testing, your airline might. Qantas Airlines, for example, has already announced that all international travelers will need a negative virus test to travel on the airline.
Once vaccines are available, the digital health passport will be a safe place to carry your records proving you’ve had the vaccine and you can enter the country. That’s the day we are all looking forward to. Until then, contact your Covington travel advisor with any questions about entry or testing requirements.