How vaccine passports will work for world travel –

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How vaccine passports will work for world travel – fr


LONDON – Boarding pass, suitcase, passport and… digital vaccination certificate?

Anxious to avoid losing another summer of vacation income due to the coronavirus pandemic, the European Union, some Asian governments and the airline industry are scrambling to develop so-called COVID vaccine passports -19 to help revive international travel.

They are working on systems that would allow travelers to use mobile phone apps to prove they’ve been vaccinated, which could help them avoid onerous quarantine requirements at their destinations.

But multiple efforts underscore the lack of a central international system to electronically verify immunization status. The projects also face technical challenges in working together, while questions about privacy and vaccine inequality persist.

Vaccination passports would add another digital layer to the multitude of existing applications for coronavirus health and contact tracing that many countries and states in the United States have deployed. Their use at the national level to reopen local economies was hotly debated, with many opposing requiring them for pubs, concerts and sporting events. However, there is more momentum to use them for international travel, especially as countries like Iceland open their borders to vaccinated visitors and others like Saudi Arabia begin to allow vaccinated citizens. to travel abroad. The EU’s decision last week to open its borders to fully vaccinated travelers adds even more urgency.

Here is an overview of how vaccine passports work:

OFFICIAL EFFORTS

The first part of a vaccination passport is the user’s official or approved electronic vaccination record.

The European Union, China and Japan are all working on their own digital vaccination certificates for cross-border travel. The UK, meanwhile, updated its National Health Service app last week to allow fully vaccinated users to prove their status when traveling abroad, coinciding with a relaxation of travel rules. .

Tests are underway for the EU’s digital certificate, which will also confirm the results of the COVID-19 test or cure from the virus and is expected to be operational by the end of June, allowing residents to reunite with friends and parents living in 30 European countries. It is still unclear where and how exactly travelers in the EU, which does not have internal border control points, will have their certificates verified. Officials in Brussels say it will depend on each country. The idea is that travelers will flash a QR code on their phone so that it can be scanned in, say, an airport or train station, using an official verification app that checks against databases. national, via an EU technical “gateway”.

The World Health Organization does not recommend proof of vaccination as a requirement for international travel, citing uneven distribution of vaccines, even as it consults on provisional advice for developing a ‘smart vaccination certificate “.

TRAVEL APPLICATIONS

Travelers also need a smartphone app to carry any official vaccination certificates.

The EU project includes open source technology that European countries can use to create their own official mobile wallets.

The International Air Transport Association, an airline industry group, has its IATA Travel Pass for smartphones, to which airlines such as Qantas, Japan Airlines, Emirates, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have subscribed. A rival effort, the nonprofit CommonPass, has gained traction with carriers like Cathay Pacific, JetBlue, United, and Lufthansa.

Travelers can already use the apps to verify that their COVID-19 test results are accepted at destination. Travel Pass and CommonPass are so far only available to travelers of the airlines that use them. Both can also be integrated into air travel apps so users can check their immunization status when checking in online. Both should also work with EU certificates. CommonPass says users will be able to import vaccine credentials by mid-June.

With a travel prospect clouded by a pandemic, CommonPass CEO Paul Meyer said vaccine passports would only become more prevalent. “We hope this will remain a requirement for international travel. “

WHAT TRAVELERS WANT

Business travelers like UK public relations director Richard Fogg welcome vaccine passports. Fogg’s company reduced plans to attend a major telecommunications fair in Barcelona next month, given quarantine rules for people returning to the UK

“These 10 days of quarantine will have negative business implications – there is no way around that,” Fogg said, while acknowledging the trade-offs, including concerns about data privacy.

Eymeric Segard, CEO of Geneva-based private jet broker Lunajets, noted that travelers already hand in their passports with personal data upon arrival.

“Personally, you know, I would be happy to tell anyone, yes I’m vaccinated or not I’m not vaccinated,” he said, adding that vaccine passports would help avoid the “logistical nightmare. Multiple European COVID-19 tests faced when visiting other EU countries.

WHAT ABOUT FAKES?

Fake COVID-19 paper documents sold by fraudsters have been a problem during the pandemic, but developers say digital versions have guarantees that make them difficult to fake.

IATA says it does not verify test results or vaccination status, but serves as a channel for registered labs to send those details securely to travelers whose identity may match the person who was tested. or vaccination. The app scans a traveller’s face using the phone’s camera and matches it with biometric details on the passport, and there are checks to prevent someone else from using their identity.

SECURITY AND CONFIDENTIALITY

Vaccination passports are a polarizing topic, with an online discussion highlighting unfounded fears that they will be used to control people, restrict freedom and erode privacy. The developers stress that minimal personal data is kept on the phones and that the only thing that is transmitted are encryption keys that allow information to be exchanged securely.

“If done correctly, it doesn’t add an additional level of privacy risk, because you’re just putting a yes or no identifying status,” said Kevin Trilli, chief product officer for the verification company. identity Onfido, which works on vaccination. card technology.

There is also the question of how well the different vaccine certification systems will work together and whether countries will recognize each other’s certificates. The UK government has warned that few countries currently accept proof of travel vaccinations.

“You can’t have a zero-day interoperable system,” but over time the issues will be resolved, which will help lay the groundwork for the next pandemic, Trilli said.

What about people who don’t have a smartphone? Or families who don’t have a device for each member? IATA and EU officials say they are working on solutions, including options on paper.

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