Digital “health passport” trials underway to help reopen borders | Air Transport

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A new digital ‘health passport’ will be flown by a small number of passengers traveling from the UK to the US for the first time next week as part of plans for a global framework for Covid-safe air travel.

The CommonPass system, supported by the World Economic Forum (WEF), is designed to create a common international standard for passengers to demonstrate that they do not have coronavirus.

However, critics of similar systems point to concerns about the sensitivity and specificity of testing in various countries, amid fears of increased surveillance of population movements.

Paul Meyer, CEO of the Commons Project, which received seed funding from the Rockefeller Foundation two years ago and created the digital health pass, said countries that have closed their borders and imposed quarantines were looking for ways to “thoughtfully reopen” their borders.

“It’s hard to do,” he told The Guardian. “You have to be able to assess the health of incoming travelers… Hopefully we will start to see some vaccines hit the market soon, but there won’t be just one vaccine.

“Some countries are probably going to say, ‘OK, I want to see the documentation that you got one of these vaccines, but not one of these vaccines.’

Highlighting existing requirements in a number of countries, including paper evidence of a yellow fever vaccination, Meyer said similar evidence – digitally preserved – for the coronavirus may soon be required for travel in “the future. predictable”.

He added, “This is about mitigating the risk. There is no perfectly safe solution. This is to provide information that can help countries reduce the risk of spread. “

The trial will apply to passengers traveling from Heathrow to Newark, United States, on a United Airlines flight on Wednesday.

Testing by private testing company Prenetics will be administered by travel and medical services company Collinson at Covid-19 testing facilities set up with Swissport. He follows a Cathay Pacific pilot on flights between Hong Kong and Singapore.

However, the test typically used in the UK is not an infectivity test, experts said, because it does not distinguish between those who have the virus and are infectious and those who no longer are. There have been many false results as a result.

It is also suspected that such programs could allow better monitoring of people’s movements and health status, an article published in the Lancet said on Friday. However, he added, they can facilitate safer travel and privacy concerns are neither unique nor insurmountable.

CommonPass confirms a traveller’s compliance with US border requirements after being tested at London Airport up to 72 hours before travel and by completing a medical screening questionnaire.

A QR code that can be scanned by airline staff and border officials is then produced if the test is negative. The process for obtaining reimbursement for the flight after a positive test was unclear. CommonPass will be paid by airlines for the service.

Most arrivals in the UK are currently required to be quarantined for a fortnight, with only around 45 countries on the list of ‘travel corridors’ without the country’s quarantine.

Mark Burgess, director of process improvement at Heathrow, told The Times: ‘For some time now, Heathrow has called for the creation of a common international standard and cross-border pilot projects, as these could help governments around the world and industry to reap the benefits. aviation testing. “

A spokesperson for the Department of Transportation said, “The government is working at the pace of the industry to identify and implement options to reduce the period of self-isolation through testing while protecting public health.

“We are consulting closely with partners in the aviation, travel, health and testing sectors as well as devolved administrations to develop measures as quickly as possible to support the recovery of the travel sector.”

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