In 2020, COVID-19 wreaked havoc on the travel industry globally and the aviation sector was the hardest hit, with almost all countries stopping 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 9/11. 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 sort of travel card that digitally contains all vaccines 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 trial 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?

This is a mobile app to help passengers easily and securely manage their trip in compliance with any government requirements for COVID-19 testing or vaccine information. A Travel Pass allows passengers to create a “digital passport” to verify that their pre-trip test or vaccination meets destination requirements. They will also be able to share test and vaccination certificates with authorities and airlines to facilitate travel.

The app also allows travelers to manage all travel documents digitally and seamlessly throughout the travel experience. It is said that in 2021, the COVID-19 vaccine passport will become one of the most important travel documents.

Where does the idea come from?

Although there is no concrete answer to who came up with the idea of ​​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 massive call for the implementation of 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.

It is not the first time that the idea of ​​carrying an additional travel document has emerged. A yellow card was essential proof of yellow fever vaccination at the time. This protocol was started 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 travel pass is essentially a digital form of a yellow card.

Which countries have deployed the Vaccine Passport?

Iceland: The Nordic state has become 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 Elderly said it was working on a “vaccination passport” for Danish travelers to countries where vaccination becomes compulsory for entry.

Israel: The Israeli Ministry of Health has unveiled a green passport that allows people who have already been vaccinated to travel and participate in large gatherings. The passport is both digital and physical.

Hungary: The Eastern European country is working on ‘immunity passports’, proving the traveler has never contracted a virus or has antibodies in their body.

Greece: Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has called on the European Commission to introduce a vaccination certificate to facilitate travel between the bloc.

Global agencies offering Travel Pass

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 IATA Travel Pass, Emirates has already partnered with IATA to roll out a mobile app 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. Nearly 2,000 airports covered by Airport Council International have committed to using 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 by becoming the first country to do so.

Challenges related to the implementation of the COVID-19 passport

While the idea of ​​implementing a travel pass globally suffices for the need to make travel easier in the future, not everyone is ready to embrace the new normal. The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) has called the compulsory vaccine passport “discriminatory”. The WTTC says testing travelers before travel to prove they are Covid-free is a better solution.

“The most vulnerable groups should be prioritized, a blanket 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 negative COVID test,” Gloria Guevara, WTTC President and CEO, said.

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