When will digital COVID passports be ready and in use?

Digital COVID passport is a phone application that confirms that the person has a negative test for COVID 19 or a certificate of vaccination. There is also confirmation that these documents were issued by an authorized body. It is designed in a “modular” way, which means that it is compatible with other digital solutions that are being tested around the world. It will be available on iOS and Android platforms and is expected to be free.

The officials from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) expect a digital COVID passport (IATA Travel Pass) to be ready in a few weeks. They believe that a COVID passport is necessary for the normalization of air travel, but having in mind that many countries still have restrictions or quarantine.

Trust is crucial

Vinoop Goel, the regional director of the airport and foreign relations of IATA, stated that a passenger needs to be sure that their test is valid and that with it they will be able to enter a particular country. On the other hand, governments must be sure that the test is accurate and it meets the set conditions.

Singapore Airlines was the first airline to perform Travel Pass rehearsals in December.  Other airlines are also currently conducting the tests. IATA states that most airlines throughout the Asia-Pacific region are also considering a COVID passport and that IATA  is currently learning from these pilot tests. They plan to start with the Travel Pass in March.

The closest printed document to this app is the “Yellow Card” (International Certificate of Vaccination and Prophylaxis). It is a document of the World Health Organization (WHO) which confirms that the passengers have been vaccinated (for example against yellow fever) which is necessary for entering certain countries.

Printed certificates are not a perfect idea as they are at a high risk of fraud but some governments insist on printed documentation and it could be a problem for the IATA app. For example, the Republic of Korea requires printed certificates, so IATA is working with the government there to enable the acceptance of digital documents.

Quarantine-free travel is necessary

The aviation industry hopes that travel will resume this year, but without quarantine. However, progress in this direction is expected to be very slow, even with the application.

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It is believed that the vaccination will take too long- a year or two, depending on the availability of the vaccine globally. Thus, a long-term solution to reopening borders and normalizing travel would be a combination of testing and vaccination.

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