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Will an effective coronavirus vaccine boost international travel?

Anir Chatterji, Middle East immigration leader at PwC, talks about whether vaccines will put an end to quarantining and testing.

News of effective vaccines against coronavirus being rolled out has raised hopes that international travel will soon go back to normal, or at least the “new normal”.

This comes in as 25 countries have already signed up for the CommonPass, or the ‘digital health passport’, an initiative aimed at creating an aligned and common international standard for flight passengers to demonstrate they do not have coronavirus.

Until the vaccine is in wider circulation, coronavirus testing and quarantine measures remain critical components in facilitating international travel.
Anir Chatterji, Middle East immigration leader at PwC, talks to Arabian Business about how the provision of effective vaccines will impact international travel and whether it will put an end to quarantining and testing.

Chatterji also addresses the mechanisms of the CommonPass and what it means for global travellers.

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Does the vaccine mean travel will resume in 2021?

Hopefully, although it’s likely to be a few months yet before the vaccine is in circulation.

It is, however, anticipated that international travel will start to resume to a greater extent by spring 2021, as travel restrictions ease in direct response to vaccination access.

Confidence in international travel will also be central to the extent of international travel we can expect to see next year.

AB: Will the vaccine have an impact on quarantine requirements?
Potentially. However, it will depend on individual countries’ approach to their borders and community transmission measures.

Access to the vaccines is likely to be skewed in favour of high-income countries, such as the US, UK and European countries. Lower-income countries may therefore still be heavily reliant upon quarantine measures throughout 2021 (and we should anticipate Covid-19 testing to remain central to travel requirements next year).

Will travellers be required to obtain a vaccination certificate before boarding an airline?

Qantas Airlines made headlines when it announced that international travellers would likely be required to prove they’ve been vaccinated against Covid-19, before being able to board one of their aircrafts.

However, airline industry group, International Air Transport Association has distanced itself from Qantas’ stance, saying it’s still too early to confirm approach and that testing would continue to be critical in order to facilitate travel.

Ryanair and easyJet announced that they did not expect to require vaccination on their flights. Ryanair had suggested, however, that duration of the flight may be a consideration for future vaccine certification requirements, with short-haul flights unlikely to implement such strict requirements.

Which countries are likely to have access to vaccines?

If travel restrictions do look to incorporate the requirement to present vaccination certificates, then access to these vaccines will play a significant role in the ability to mobilise and cross borders.

‘Vaccine nationalism’ is a common phrase used in the discussion on country access to vaccines. With the vast majority of vaccine doses already being bought by high-income countries, there is a concern that in the race to get reserves, the poorest of countries will be left behind.

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The EU, US, Canada, the UK and India have reserved the most doses of vaccines, according to the latest published data. Countries such as Brazil and Mexico who have the infrastructure to host clinical trials have also been able to use this as leverage their positions to secure future vaccines.

Middle-income countries with manufacturing capacity have been able to negotiate large purchase agreements as part of manufacturing deals. The WHO is, however, urging for a collective global approach to vaccine access through COVAX, a global collaboration which is not only aimed at accelerating the development and manufacture of vaccines but also at guaranteeing fair and equitable access.

In the long run, a global approach to vaccine access will be critical to ensure control over the virus. Nationalistic approaches to address pandemic security issues, such as border closures, has shown to be an ineffective effort for long term virus containment.

Will business-critical travellers have priority access to vaccines?
There has been some discussion from health professionals who have suggested that occupation and the frequency of business travel should be a consideration when determining priority for vaccination. However, as yet there is no official stance on this and PwC continues to monitor the situation closely.

What is the CommonPass or what is commonly referred to as the ‘digital health passport’?

The CommonPass system is an initiative, backed by the World Economic Forum, which aims to create an aligned and common international standard for passengers to demonstrate they do not have Covid-19 (i.e., a way of increasing trust between countries that a traveller’s record of a Covid-19 PCR test or vaccination, administered in another country, is valid).

As the pandemic evolves and science around testing and vaccination progresses, countries will need to update their health screening entry requirements. The CommonPass aims to provide greater transparency around these updates.

How does the CommonPass work?

The CommonPass will enable travellers to access their Covid-19 test results and vaccination records. Users of the CommonPass will be able to consent to have this information used to validate their Covid-19 status for travel. Test results and vaccination records will be accessed through existing health data systems, national or local registries or personal digital health records (Apple Health for iOS and CommonHealth for Android, both of which let individuals store health records securely).

CommonPass will confirm that the traveller’s test results and/or vaccination records have come from a trusted source and satisfy the health screening requirements of their destination country.

Which countries have signed up to the CommonPass?

The WEF and the Commons Project have been working together with public and private leaders from more than 50 countries on the design and implementation of the CommonPass.

So far, governments engaged with the CommonPass include Aruba, Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Egypt, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, New Zealand, Russia, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and the United States of America.

Source: Arabian Business News

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