Coronavirus: What are health “passports” and how viable are they?

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As countries around the world seek ways to reopen their borders securely to international travelers, some are considering “passports” for health – or immunity – for visitors.

The Italian island of Sardinia plans to introduce health passports for tourists this summer in the northern hemisphere, The telegraph reported. Tourists would be required to produce a document showing that they tested negative for Covid-19 within one week of arrival.

Vacationers would present the document on a plane or ferry to the island and, upon arrival, have their temperature checked.

Health passports can be checked at the same time as ordinary passports.
JORGE SAENZ / AP

Health passports can be checked at the same time as ordinary passports.

“I am sure it will work well: we will preserve health and save our economy at the same time,” said the island’s governor. Arab News. “Now everything must be done to stimulate tourism. It is the biggest source of income for Sardinia. “

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Other Italian islands like Capri, Ischia and Panarea are considering similar measures.

Italy typically derives about 15% of its GDP – around 279 billion euros (NZ $ 576 billion) a year – from tourism, but bookings for the summer are down 57%.

Italy is not the only country to seriously consider the introduction of health passports.

Sardinia plans to introduce health passports to boost its tourism sector.
Stuff-co-nz

Sardinia plans to introduce health passports to boost its tourism sector.

EU tourism ministers discussed the possibility of a “Covid-19 passport” for the entire bloc at a videoconference meeting in April, Forbes reported.

“We must allow the borders to be opened as much as possible,” said Croatian Minister of Tourism Gari Cappelli to fellow ministers, adding that there was a need for a safety net “which we must all respect”.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has however warned against health and immunity passports and “safe certificates”.

“There is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from Covid-19 and who have antibodies are protected from a second infection,” the organization said in late April.

The use of health passports could therefore increase the risk of spreading the virus, the statement said.

Most studies to date have shown that people who have recovered from the virus have antibodies in the blood, but some have only very low levels of antibodies.

Whether health passports are introduced or not, health checks at airports should continue.

Getty-Images

Whether health passports are introduced or not, health checks at airports should continue.

This suggests that T cells, which kill infected cells in the human body, may also be “critical” for recovery.

“At this stage of the pandemic, there is not enough evidence of the effectiveness of antibody-mediated immunity to guarantee the accuracy of a” passport of immunity “or” certificate without risk “,” said WHO.

WHO’s position on health passports may change with the emergence of new research – the organization said it is still examining the evidence on antibody responses to the virus.

Chile is the only country to date to have officially launched an immunity passport system.

On April 20, representatives of the Chilean government announced that they would issue immunity passport cards that would allow people who have recovered from the virus to return to work, the Washington Post reported.

Chile has said it wants to be the first country in the world to issue “customs clearance passports” to citizens, while Spain, Greece and Turkey have also said they are considering health passports.

A passenger in flight is projected with a thermal camera in Santiago de Chile.

AP

A passenger in flight is projected with a thermal camera in Santiago de Chile.

For New Zealanders, the first international destination likely to reopen is Australia, which has followed a similar trajectory to New Zealand to contain the virus.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has indicated that a first step in creating a trans-Tasmanian bubble may be to open our mandatory 14-day quarantine period to Australians.

Once an effective system has been established with Australia, the Kiwis may be allowed to travel to the Pacific Islands.

The Prime Minister has also started discussions with Singapore on what a smart border might look like, so our travel bubble could have an Asian component, after the second wave of city-state Covid-19 cases will have disappeared.

Air New Zealand revenue manager Cam Wallace has predicted that after Australia and the Pacific, other markets will open “country by country”.

Whether health passports take off or not, future flights are likely to see us undergo health checks before departure and upon arrival.

Singapore-based aeronautical marketing consultancy SimpliFlying estimates that more than 70 areas of passenger travel should change or be introduced to restore confidence in flights in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Getting a large number of people to fly again will depend on giving them peace of mind not to rub their shoulders – or bump their elbows in the economy – with infectious fellow travelers,” said said CEO Shashank Nigam.

“In addition, government officials and airport operators will want to know that airlines maintain a certain level of cleanliness and hygiene before offering landing slots. “

Nigam believes there should be one authority to set global standards on health issues at the airport and on board aircraft.

“Similar to the creation of the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) after September 11, I think it will take a global THA – Transportation Health Authority.

“In an ideal situation, we want consistent health screenings and policies around the world, because the inconsistencies will only further frustrate travelers and suppress demand.” “

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