August 12, 2021
By Emily Lim
The accelerating roll-out of Covid-19 vaccinations across the globe is heralding the return of international travel. Governments, corporates, social groups and travel providers have been working on Covid-19 health passports as an important step towards the successful resumption of international air travel.
Around the world, green lanes and special travel corridors have allowed for business travel throughout Covid-19, despite stops and starts. Health passports, however, will mean greater convenience with eased restrictions for those vaccinated. If you’d like to know what Covid-19 health passports are and how they work, here’s an article that you’ll find useful.
As travel restarts, here are 5 of the most popular health passports around the world and also the latest information on country-specific initiatives.
In this article, we'll take a look at:
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) launched its digital travel pass in late February 2021 and more than 40 airlines including Singapore Airlines, Malaysia Airlines and Emirates are currently trialling the use of this travel pass.
The IATA Travel Pass will help people travel more easily by helping them:
In order to maintain the data privacy of travellers, the IATA Travel Pass does not store data centrally. Instead, it links entities that need test or vaccination data verification with each other with your permission. No verification will be sent to airlines or governments unless you authorise it.
The European Commission has initiated the Digital Green Certificate, which has been agreed by all 27 member states and will help facilitate travellers from EU countries to travel freely within the EU countries plus residents from Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, San Marino, Switzerland and the Vatican City.
This digital document was launched on 1 July 2021 and contains the person’s name, date of birth and date of the issue of the certificate. The Green Certificate proves that the holder has been vaccinated, has had a negative PCR Covid- test or has recovered from the virus. This information will be stored on the digital certificate as a QR code and will contain an authentication seal. The information will be presented in English and in the language of the traveller’s home country.
To maintain data privacy, only the validity and authenticity of the certificate is checked by verifying who issued and signed it. All health data remains with the Member State that issued the EU Digital COVID Certificate. Information within the certificate cannot be stored by visited countries.
The Digital Green Certificate will be easily obtainable and will be issued free of charge. For those without a smartphone, the certificate with the QR code can be downloaded and printed on paper.
The CommonPass was created by the The Commons Project in partnership with the World Economic Forum. The Commons Project is a non-profit public trust that builds platforms and services to give people around the world the full benefit of technology.
It can be used for travel or general use by any smartphone user. The CommonPass app stores vaccination information and latest test results. However, if being used for travel, you may be required to key in an invitation code based on your destination country. Two destinations that are currently accepting the CommonPass app are Aruba and Hawaii in the United States.
Developed by AirAsia, Scan2Fly is an artificial intelligence (AI) based feature that passengers can use themselves as part of the self-check-in procedure. The system was developed by AirAsia for the benefit of air passengers to save long queues at airports and to help the authorities in the countries in which the airline operates.
Passengers upload the required documents during the check-in process onto AirAsia’s portal – for example, Singapore requires all passengers to have a Safe Travel Pass and PCR Covid test certificate. The system analyses and validates Covid-19 related documents and instantly verifies that the passenger meets requirements and can travel.
Scan2Fly is developed in partnership with big data and analytics company, GrayMatter. There is limited information on the data security of Scan2Fly. The cloud-hosted technology is closely integrated to the rest of AirAsia’s applications and equipped with “robust information security”.
The IBM Digital Health Pass is an encrypted digital wallet for smartphone users that can verify their Covid status either with a proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test result to give pass holders such as employees, customers and visitors the opportunity to access public events and places.
For travelling, the health pass can be used by cruise ships, airlines, hotels and travel authorities to establish the health status of travellers in advance. Companies that are using the IBM Digital Health Pass include Salesforce, Amadeus and the state of New York. This move is to allow for better data-driven decisions that could “bring employees back to offices, visitors back to hotels, concert goers back to music venues and sports fans back to stadiums”.
As travellers everywhere are keen to start travelling again, it is not surprising that many countries are currently working on Covid-19 health passports worldwide. Here are some country-specific Covid-19 health passport initiatives.
Japan is currently negotiating with more than ten countries to have its Covid-19 passport accepted by them and hopes to be able to initiate this programme by late July. Holders of the health passport will be exempt from quarantine and will not need to produce negative test results, when travelling from Japan to these countries.
However, Japan still requires travellers arriving in Japan to be quarantined for two weeks which is causing some difficulties. Singapore and Israel for example, have both requested mutual exemption for their nationals arriving in Japan.
The Hong Kong government is working with The Commons Project to adopt The Common Pass – digital vaccine passport which shows a holder’s vaccination status and virus test results. The first route that Hong Kong plans to use the passport on is the Hong Kong-Singapore Air Travel Bubble when it reopens.
China introduced its digital certificate in March 2021 for its citizens. To make the health passport more easily accessible, the digital certificates which include a person’s vaccination and testing history can be accessed through the ubiquitous WeChat social media platform. China is seeking recognition from other countries and hoping it can be used for travelling one day.
South Korea was one of the few countries that never fully closed its borders. All fully vaccinated travellers entering the country have been exempt from quarantine and it is currently implementing the use of the COOV vaccine passport that has been developed by Blockchain Labs. From 1 July 2021, South Korea launched a quarantine-free regional travel bubble for business travellers from Taiwan, Singapore and Thailand.
Thailand’s vaccine passport confirms the holder’s vaccination against Covid-19. Essentially, this is the certificate of vaccination that is also accepted as an official travel document for those already vaccinated against Covid-19 and travelling to other countries.
Only vaccines approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and vaccines registered in Thailand will be issued the certificate.
Malaysia has recently launched its Immunitee Health Passport, sponsored by the global investment firm, Affinidi, which is headquartered in Singapore. This blockchain based health passport stores a digital record of travellers’ vaccination and testing history in a QR code format that can only be unlocked with a private key.
As well as helping travellers to gain easy clearance at borders, the app will be used by healthcare facilities, immigration departments, hotels and universities.
For the foreseeable future, international travel will be challenging until all borders are open and all countries have the same Covid-19 health requirements for entry and one universal health passport system. At present, having a digital health passport does not guarantee that you will be able to travel.
The required documentation and entry rules for each country are constantly changing. It is essential that travellers keep abreast of the latest travel information. By tracking over 200 government advisories, Covid Entry Check is a handy tool that allows you to key in your location and destination, and gives you all the information you need at your fingertips.
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