What are Digital Passports and How Can They Help Us Travel Again Amid the Pandemic?
To support the safe reopening of borders and travel bubbles, and to enable us to travel again, digital tools are being employed to certify passengers’ immunity from Covid-19. In fact, approximately 20 airlines worldwide will begin testing an app from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) which will allow passengers to securely store and present the health records they need to travel internationally.
On December 23, 2020, Singapore Airlines started trials on a new digital health passport on passengers travelling on its flights from Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur to Singapore. Passengers who have taken their Covid-19 tests at selected clinics in Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur can use the digital health passport, known as Travel Pass, to verify their Covid-19 test results and ensure they meet Singapore’s entry requirements.
Aside from offering a faster and more secure way to validate a passenger’s health credentials, the Travel Pass will help speed up check-in and immigration processes, resulting in a more seamless experience. If successful, Singapore Airlines could extend it to other cities in its route network.
Similarly, Air New Zealand has also announced it will trial a digital travel pass to give airlines and border authorities access to passenger health information, including their Covid-19 vaccination status. Dubbed a 'vaccination passport' by industry observers, the pass is intended to streamline travel once borders reopen by allowing passengers to store their health credentials in one place.
The airline is scheduled to roll out the trial in April on flights between Auckland and Sydney.
As the Covid-19 vaccination drive begins to gather steam in Malaysia, the Malaysia Aviation Group Bhd (MAG) has confirmed that talks are underway with local authorities on the implementation of digitally verifiable health credentials. This 'vaccine visa' will allow vaccinated travellers to skip the mandatory quarantine.
“A vaccine visa or health passport is designed to help nations be sure that all travellers are safe and do not pose a risk of causing the spread of Covid-19. Designed to work while the governments are still enforcing travel restrictions and quarantine policies, the health passport can be the first step to ensuring the safe reopening of international travel,” The Edge quoted MAG as saying.
While details about the health passport are scarce, there's hope yet for safe travel internationally in the near future, especially with vaccinations being rolled out across the globe.
(Related: How Luxury Travel Will Change After The Covid-19 Pandemic)