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New Travel Documents for the Post-Pandemic World

    What will the future of travel look like?

    After seemingly endless months of uncertainty, an answer is finally coming into focus:

    Digital health passports (misleadingly called ‘vaccination passports’) will clear the path to the new normal.

    But how? 

    Governments, non-profit organisations, and private companies are all coming up with ideas on how to make travel work safely again.

    There is no unified global solution at this point, but a pattern is emerging: to board an international flight, you will have to prove that you are fit to travel.

    In the infographic below, we’ll take a look at how 4 of the leading digital health passports are being used at an international level.

    Notice that these documents are not exclusively for people who have been vaccinated. They can also be used to show that a passenger has tested negative for COVID within a certain time before the flight. For example, in the 72 hours before arrival in the destination country.


    Digital Health Passports


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    Why is there so much controversy around vaccine passports?

    This topic is fuelling debates all over the world. What are the arguments swirling around this issue?

    1. The creation of vaccination passports could split societies into new types of ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’. 

    Especially when considering the many countries around the world where vaccines are not widely available, it doesn’t seem fair for the vaccinated population to enjoy special privileges, some say.

    2. Vaccinated people have rights that the unvaccinated don’t. 

    For example, Israel has a ‘green pass’ that allows the vaccinated exclusive access to hotels, restaurants, concerts, and event halls. The government does intend to add an option for those with a recent negative test soon, which will be especially useful for young children who are not vaccinated.

    In the United States, hundreds of universities have announced that they will require students to be vaccinated before arriving on campus. This includes public universities, such as the State University of New York (SUNY) and the University of California (UC) schools, as well as private universities, such as Duke, Stanford and Yale.

    Many businesses, including Dollar General, Kroger, McDonalds, Target and Trader Joe’s, are providing employees with incentives to get vaccinated. These incentives range from paid time off (usually only a few hours, to go get vaccinated) to extra pay. Some companies are also exploring the possibility of requiring employees to get vaccinated (and firing them if they refuse).

    3. Creating incentives to get vaccinated: good or bad?

    Some people consider that giving benefits to the vaccinated is a way to encourage vaccination, which is a public good that helps to keep everyone safe.

    These benefits for vaccinated people could include the ability to travel, attend university, hold a job, enjoy indoor dining, go maskless, and attend events or concerts. (Unvaccinated people could be prohibited from these activities, or required to go through additional steps such as COVID testing before participating.)

    Other people see incentivising vaccination as a form of coercion and an attack on individual freedom.

    People’s differing views on this topic can be influenced by a number of factors, including personal values, demographic characteristics, political views and the political climate in the local community or country.

    When it comes to international travel, the vaccine passport debate is largely unnecessary

    Digital health passports can be used by both the vaccinated and the unvaccinated to prove that they are fit to travel. For example, unvaccinated people can use them to prove a negative test result.

    Furthermore, at this time, digital health passports are not required for travel between countries.

    They are merely an optional tool travellers can use to:

    • Make sure they are in compliance with the current rules and restrictions.
    • Present proof of their fitness to travel in a way that is easy for airlines and border agents to verify.

    Benefits of digital health passports

    • Digital platforms and apps are designed to prevent fraudulent documents and increase security.
    • Travellers don’t have to keep track of paper documents.
    • Travellers can confirm that they meet a country’s entry requirements ahead of time.
    • Potential for contactless transfer of information.
    • Speeds up check-in and border control processes during travel.

    Concerns about digital health passports

    • Potential for privacy concerns.
    • Not currently accepted by all airlines or countries.
    • No universal document used everywhere. Travellers may have to download a different app before each trip, depending on which type of health passport is accepted in the destination country.

    The road ahead

    Although there are still some details to iron out, it seems that digital health passports are here to stay. They may just be our ticket into the post-pandemic world.

    So next time you plan to travel abroad, along with packing your passport and applying for a visa, you may also want to download a digital health passport. Now you know what to expect!

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