Had the misfortune of contracting covid-19 this year, and still have the positive test result to prove it? Congratulations, you’re now just the person an increasing number of countries hopes will come visit, as travel (slowly) recovers, and they won’t even make you quarantine!
With mounting evidence that recovering from covid-19 provides some level of immunity in most people, countries are looking to reboot commerce and tourism by opening up borders for anyone who can prove they’ve had covid-19, and no longer do. This is the first step toward the concept of immunity passports.
CNN reports Iceland will imminently announce that anyone who has recovered from covid-19 will soon be allowed to skip out on the country’s quarantine requirements.
All visitors to Iceland must currently take a complimentary test on arrival, self isolate for 4-5 days, and then take a second covid-19 test, with which a negative result would allow them to go out and enjoy. From December 10th, visitors who can prove they’ve recovered within the last 6 months can skip quarantine.
Iceland isn’t the only one.
Despite being closed to virtually all of Europe, including Schengen area neighbors, Hungary is also welcoming just about anyone who’s had, and recovered from covid-19. Yes, oddly that’s right, a traveler from border neighbor Austria who has remained in full fitness all year is not currently eligible to enter, but one who has recovered from covid-19 is.
Iceland is in talks with Nordic countries including Finland, Norway and Sweden to agree on similar terms for visitors who’ve recovered from covid-19. A landmark study of 30,000 people found that more than 90% who had recovered, retained enough antibodies to prevent a second infection.
As vaccinations heat up, airlines, governments and tourism officials are weighing the many options for “immunity passports”. The digital apps would contain official, and less easily tampered records of any vaccine doses, or recovered cases. Via these new apps, officials would agree to share traveler data, and travelers would be able to grant access to border authorities to view their data.
The big hold up is: which app? The other big hold up: privacy issues.
Immunity Passport Travel Apps
A variety of airlines now support CommonPass, a World Economic Forum backed initiative to create a shared app that tracks a persons immunization records and other key health issues for travel.
Using tamper proof technologies such as Blockchain, the app would store records in a way which border officials and airline employees could quickly and easily validate for travel. JetBlue, Swiss, Virgin Atlantic and United all signed on to use CommonPass, thus far.
The problem is, other airlines want to go it alone. Despite the success thus far of CommonPass, and its backing from the World Economic Forum, IATA, now helmed by former IAG boss Willie Walsh, wants to develop its own app and make everyone use theirs. IAG is a partner in the project.
Varied attempts to solve a problem are always useful, but competing attempts may create confusion among travelers, and distrust.
Why isn’t IATA and the IAG Group going along with work CommonPass has already solved, and enhancing it? Best guesses can only be likened to financial interest. If you need one app for one airline or country, and another app entirely for another airline and country, people are going to be put off about the idea of competing corporate interests tracking their immunization and covid-19 records.
Surveys suggest people prefer governments, or at least NGO’s like the World Economic Forum to take responsibility for these immunity passports, to help quell privacy and data concerns.
However immunity passports eventually do work, and even if they don’t, proof of vaccination is sure to become a central issue to travel over the coming years. Qantas has already said it won’t fly people without vaccination, and a number of countries plan only to welcome visitors who’ve been vaccinated as well.
For now, proof of a positive covid-19 test, and perhaps a recent negative covid-19 test are all you need to skip the quarantine in a growing number of countries.