In this photo image, the “COVID-19 PCR test result has been verified” message from the IATA (International Air Transport Association) Travel Pass app mobile application is displayed on a smartphone screen in front of the IATA logo.
Pavlo Gonchar | LightRocket | Getty Images
Italy, Iceland, Greece and Spain are now allowing or opening their borders to people who have been vaccinated or who recently tested negative for Covid-19. The European Union has agreed to open its borders to more vaccinated tourists, including from the US
The question is: How will individuals prove their vaccine or Covid status?
By Wednesday, nearly half of the entire US population had received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine. The new Covid infections in the country continue to decline. According to the Johns Hopkins University, the 7-day average of the daily new infections with Covid is at its lowest level since June 22nd.
This trend is helping people return to pre-pandemic activities – from concerts to indoor dining to live sporting events and even international travel. Vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks or be indoors or outdoors, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said earlier this month.
Retailers like Walmart and Costco, as well as hotel chains like Hyatt, stopped their mask requirements for vaccinated customers this month, unless required by local regulations. US officials have said they are largely relying on people to be honest about their vaccination status, and retailers and hotel chains have said they have no intention of looking for evidence of vaccine.
Officials in charge of overseeing international travel need more than the honor system. Federal officials require U.S. international travelers, including U.S. residents, to provide proof of a negative Covid test result when boarding flights.
A Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman said DHS officials don’t check passengers’ Covid test results upon entry, but – that’s up to the airlines.
As airlines like United, Delta, and American expand their transatlantic service, they are encouraging travelers to upload health records online.
The travel industry has urged the Biden government to create a set of standards for digital health records to lift travel restrictions that have been crushing demand for overseas leisure and business travel for more than a year. The administration has announced that it will leave the task of developing digital health data to the private sector. Federal officials also said they did not intend to keep a database of vaccination records; that is left to the states.
Enter digital health apps. Sometimes referred to as vaccination records, some of these platforms are already under development and some are in use, including partnerships with airlines and local governments.
Here’s what it says on vaccination cards in the US:
What is a health pass?
Digital health passports – also called vaccination passports – are platforms for smartphones that enable access to a person’s health data, e.g. B. Covid test results or vaccination status. Israel and Denmark have already made platforms available and other countries are working independently.
If people are vaccinated in the United States, they will be given proof of this in the form of a card issued by the CDC. Airlines that don’t want staff to double-check any additional travel information will look at digitized versions that can be easily scanned.
Do i need one
The health passes are not mandatory, but they can become more useful as more countries and attractions reopen.
Countries that have recently opened or plan to open their borders to foreign tourists, such as Iceland and Greece, say travelers are required to provide proof of being vaccinated against Covid-19 or proof of a recent negative Covid-19 -Testing.
So far, however, no digital health certificates are required.
“Certificates can be on paper or in electronic form,” Sveinn Gudmarsson, communications director at Iceland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said via email. “The border control assesses whether a certificate is valid and consults a representative of the chief epidemiologist [health care worker] as needed.”
In the US, since January, all incoming travelers from abroad, including citizens, have been required to provide evidence of a negative Covid-19 test, even if they are vaccinated.
More people can be admitted to venues in California if the facility provides evidence that they have been vaccinated.
Who does it
There are already several platforms. IBM developed the New York State Excelsior Pass, which was tested at a New York Nets game in February. The app uses blockchain to communicate with government vaccination protocols or with health care providers. The display shows a simple go or no-go sign, not the actual test result.
The International Air Transport Association, a trading group that represents nearly 300 airlines worldwide, has launched its own digital health passport. Singapore started accepting Covid-19 test results on this platform this month.
Some airlines like JetBlue Airways have announced trials with another Commons Project Foundation digital health pass called the Common Pass.
United Airlines recently announced that it is expanding its own app to allow travelers to book Covid-19 test appointments online. The results are uploaded automatically and customers know if they can travel to their destination.
The European Union and Israel are developing their own digital health certificates.
Why are they controversial?
Digital health certificates have raised concerns about the security of customer data with third-party apps that communicate with databases containing sensitive health information. It has also raised inequality concerns as the platforms work primarily on individuals’ smartphones.
Florida, Texas, and Arizona governors have decided to stop companies from asking customers to provide proof of vaccination. Arizona governor Doug Ducey signed an ordinance last month banning these certificates as a requirement for receiving services, saying that vaccinations are an individual’s choice, not the government.
Even the World Health Organization said it was against requiring proof of a vaccine for entry into another country, “given the limited (albeit growing) evidence of vaccines’ power in reducing transmission and the persistent inequality in the global world.” Vaccine distribution “.
Do I have to check the vaccination forever?
That is still unclear, just as it is not clear when other Covid-era rules such as masks on airplanes or public transport will apply. Even the travel industry, one of the hardest hit by the pandemic, has reservations.
Willie Walsh, former CEO of British Airways’ parent company International Consolidated Airlines Group and current director general of IATA, said he doesn’t want vaccine detection to become a permanent fixture.
“These are measures that may be required as a temporary precaution during this crisis. Once we are through this crisis, we want these restrictions to be permanently lifted so that people can go back to travel as they did in 2019,” said he said earlier this month.
Nate Rattner from CNBC contributed to this article.