‘Global digital travel pass’ for passengers and staff touted as the travel industry’s way out of the coronavirus pandemic, so what does it mean for Australia ?
Air New Zealand announced this week that it will test a digital health certificate to verify that travelers have been vaccinated or tested negative for COVID-19 on its Auckland-Sydney route in April.
The Travel Pass app is designed to “ enable people to move safely around the world again, ” Air NZ said, and was developed by the powerful body of the aviation industry, the Association international air transport (IATA).
“Air New Zealand’s IATA Travel Pass trial will help give governments the confidence to reopen borders and passengers the confidence to travel,” said Nick Careen, IATA senior vice president .
“The app has been developed with the highest levels of privacy and data security, so passengers always remain in control of their COVID-19 health information.”
The World Health Organization is also working with Estonia, a nation at the forefront of technology, to develop globally recognized digital or “smart” vaccine certificates.
Estonia will attempt to create a digital version of an existing global paper-based approval system for yellow fever vaccinations that have long been required for travelers entering Australia from countries at risk.
Earlier this month, Minister of Government Services Stuart Robert announced plans to have “vaccination certificates” available through the MyGov website and the Medicare phone app.
Air New Zealand said it has conversations with government agencies about options for testing and vaccination validation.
“Once the borders reopen, travel will be very different, with customer health data needing to be verified upon check-in,” said Jennifer Sepull, the airline’s digital director.
It’s basically like having a digital health certificate that can be easily and securely shared with airlines.
“This will give customers the certainty of meeting all the travel requirements of different countries around the world before they even arrive at the airport.
Having “all of your health credentials digitally in one place” will both “speed up the check-in process but unlock the potential for contactless travel,” Ms. Sepull said.
Jeff Jarvis, director of graduate tourism at Monash University, said there are still many unknowns when it comes to the resumption of global travel.
“The tourism industry, especially international tourism, has been decimated by COVID and, of course, the industry is looking at various ways to try and allow demand to come back,” Dr Jarvis said.
The “known unknown” key is whether coronavirus vaccines effectively stop or reduce transmission of the virus “because it really opens up the possibility for the tourism industry to come back,” Dr Jarvis said.
“What that means then is that it’s much more likely that governments will open up borders,” he said.
Whether governments “will require vaccines for you to enter the country” is the second “known unknown,” Dr Jarvis said.
Parts of the airline industry are pushing for pre-flight vaccination testing.
However, the case of Greek tennis player Michail Pervolarakis, who left Australia after testing negative to arrive at his destination and testing positive, highlights the problem with pre-flight testing, Dr Jarvis said.
Then there is the question of whether travelers will be forced to submit to a quarantine.
“For now, some countries in Europe will give you free access if you travel from Australia to parts of Europe. But if you are from high risk countries, you will have to go into quarantine, ”Dr Jarvis said.
The future of “travel bubbles” and “corridors” is also on hold.
“There’s been a lot of talk about it, but there have only been a few successful examples around the world,” Dr Jarvis said.