As vaccinations are rolled out in many parts of the world, discussions continue about the possibility of having some kind of “vaccine passport” to prove that travellers are protected against COVID-19.
The digital passports are likely to appear as apps on smartphones and will document the health status of travellers, keeping a record of both vaccination and negative COVID-19 tests.
These would have to be recognised by individual governments to allow international travel.
Several companies and international bodies are currently suggesting a variety of technological solutions to document and verify travellers’ health status. Here, we round up the various “passports” on trial at the moment.
Who’s behind it? The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) has collaborated with International SOS and the SGS Group to create this digital, secure and portable copy of medical records.
How does it work? Once individuals have medical results, they can enter the information into an app to create a pass. A unique code is generated and shown to the individual and their medical practitioner for them to verify the information. They will then be able to show the QR code for verification at airports.
Where is it available? Successful trials took place on flights last year between Abu Dhabi and Pakistan. Since then, Alitalia has begun a pilot scheme to digitise COVID-19 rapid antigen test results via the passport for flights from Rome to New York. Passengers travelling to Singapore from Indonesia and Malaysia can also use the pass to show their COVID-19 test results at dedicated immigration lanes at Changi airport. In January, Etihad Airways announced it would pilot the AOKpass on routes between Paris and Abu Dhabi. International SOS says the pass will be rolled out to other international travellers “in the coming months”.
Is my data secure? The AOKpass states that medical records are stored only on your device and will not be shared or stored elsewhere. The pass is verified without the need to show any personal or medical information and travellers can “choose when and where to share [their] information”. The information is secured using a “hashing algorithm so that it can’t be read by anyone else”.
Who’s behind it? The Commons Project has partnered with the World Economic Forum to launch this digital health passport.
How does it work? Lab results and vaccination records will be accessed through existing health data systems, national or local registries or personal digital health records such as Apple Health and CommonHealth. Individuals will need to consent to the information being used to validate their COVID-19 status. The technology will then assess whether the results and records come from a trusted source and if they satisfy the health screening requirements of the country they wish to enter. There will be a simple yes/no answer to whether the individual meets the entry criteria. Travellers will receive a unique confirmation code they can show at the airport to board the flight. CommonPass says those without a smartphone will be able to print off a confirmation code and show it at the airport.
Where is it available? The first trials were completed in October with Cathay Pacific between Hong Kong and Singapore and United Airlines between London and New York. Since then, carriers including Jetblue, Lufthansa, Swiss and Virgin Atlantic have trialled the technology.
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