F-R-A-U-D, that’s the big thing standing in the way of reopened borders, at least for countries with successful vaccination progress.

Covid-19 vaccines are proving to be incredibly effective in their goals of not only stopping cases, but spread too, and many countries including Singapore are eager to bring back travel and the vital things which come with it, like business and economic opportunity for locals.

Sadly, fake test results and vaccination certificates bring the greatest risk to any opening measures in the short term. Singapore, as a nation which depends greatly on business, transit and visitors is eager to get past that hurdle, and hopes a trial of the IATA Travel Pass will provide the data to reopen international travel.

Singapore Trialling IATA Travel Pass

Reports of vaccination fraud and covid-19 testing fraud are more than just hyperbole. They’re real concern, with many real world data points of people being caught in the act, and a worrying number which haven’t. It’s making it hard for countries to open.

As it stands, test results for travel are rudimentary PDF’s with few fail safes. You get a result, you download it, it says “this person has tested negative for covid-19 using this test on this date”, and in the best case there’s a digital stamp which looks official and has contact details. It’s all too easy for people to create their own, without testing.

Apps such as CommonPass, VeriFLY and IATA’s Travel Pass hope to change that, with results uploaded directly to the app from verified labs, creating a tamper proof seal to any reported results. You can’t just share a PDF and say it’s real, and the app provides a verifiable QR code to airlines and immigration officials showing that you’re “fit to fly” once, and only once all requirements are fulfilled.

The Jewel at Changi Airport

Singapore is set to begin a trial of the IATA Travel Pass, in hopes of squaring the app’s verified results with their own testing data to get a ballpark figure on risks for travelers known to be carrying genuine vaccination certificates or negative covid-19 test results.

“As we work to safely rebuild the Changi air hub, we will continue to explore other solutions that can provide similarly secure and verifiable means of sharing health certificates for safe international travel,”

Kevin Shum, Director General of Singapore’s Aviation Authority

With these travel passes, results are more trusted, which allows nations like Singapore greater peace of mind that the health status a traveler claims, is genuine. If vaccination status isn’t just believed to be real, but rather “known” to be real, it’s easier to resume travel as it was, just over a year ago.

As for accepting negative results in lieu of vaccination, early studies from Hawaii have shown roughly 1:1,000 to 1:1,500 people test positive for covid-19 after arriving with a negative result taken in the 3 days before travel. Countries, will need to weigh potential risks as border reopening plans emerge.

Singapore’s Transport Minister, Ong Ye Kung also noted in parliament that the country is actively looking into mutual recognition agreements for vaccination certificates with other countries, according to Bloomberg.

For now, Singapore will rely on its newly built, huge business transit center, which allows people to fly in and stay safely behind the glass to conduct essential business. Even rooms have been designed with safety measures for contactless food delivery. It’s a far cry from experiencing the joys of Singapore’s Hawker Stalls first hand, but it’s something.

So, When Will Singapore Reopen International Travel?

The fact that Singapore will trial the IATA Travel Pass to verify results and monitor the impact of inbound visitors is promising, but by no means indicative of an imminent reopening. Singapore hopes to establish testing regimes to replace quarantine with regional partners in the short term, including Australia and Hong Kong.

With over 25% of US adults vaccinated and counting, and similar figures in the UK, verified results may be the final hurdle in rebooting travel between these key global hubs. Once crude CDC certificates are replaced with impenetrable, verified digital documents, the case to keep vaccinated people “out” becomes thin.

Singapore says it hopes to have all adults fully vaccinated by the end of 2021, and 45’s by summer, so there’s still glimmers of hope for some Hainanese chicken rice or a big bowl of laksa in this stunning Southeast Asian destination before the end of the year, but probably only if you’ve been fully vaccinated, and can digitally prove it.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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1 Comment

  1. Hawaii’s testing program has mainly worked because they require you to go through a specific set of verified testing providers, and can double check with them. Anywhere else in the world the testing certificates are easy to forge and modify… I think any country to have a truly successful test-before-entry program has to limit the list of testing providers that they will accept

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