Airlines Urge WHO to OK Quarantine-Free Travel After Vaccines

By  Christopher Jasper | January 28, 2021

The airline industry has called on the World Health Organization to rule it’s safe for people to fly without quarantining once they’ve had a coronavirus vaccine.

Acknowledgement of that principle from the United Nations agency is vital to the development of a digital-travel pass aimed at getting people moving again once infection rates ease, the International Air Transport Association said Wednesday.

“We can say whatever we want, what we do need is for the WHO to come out and say the same thing, so that it becomes a universal acceptance that once you’re vaccinated you should not have to go through any of these hoops,” Nick Careen, IATA’s senior vice president for passenger matters, said in a briefing.

The development of common standards for vaccine certificates, a key aspect of IATA’s proposed Travel Pass smartphone app, needs to move much faster, Careen said. Paper-based accreditation is more open to fraud, with several cases having already emerged, he said. The IATA app, which can also be used to store a negative test result, is due to be launched in March.

“We have been suggesting this for months,” he said. “The WHO needs a fire lit underneath it to get this done sooner rather than later. Even then, there’s no guarantee that every government will adopt the standard right away.”

The WHO’S Emergency Committee on Covid-19 doesn’t recommend countries demand proof of vaccination from incoming travelers, as the impact of inoculations in reducing transmission is unknown, the agency said on Jan. 15. Nations should instead implement coordinated, evidence-based measures for safe travel, it said.

The aviation and travel industries have been appealing to governments and global institutions to work together on a unified way to ease passage across borders since the early months of the pandemic. A lack of consistency and number of abrupt changes in policy have put off most people from making journeys, leaving many companies with bleak prospects.

Grecian Cheer

IATA has been cheered by Greece saying that vaccinated people shouldn’t be subject to travel restrictions, Careen said, adding that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also recognized that jabs should be an enabler and that people who have had the virus should be exempt from quarantines and testing.

Talks are continuing with the European Union and nation states in the bloc, as well as the air-safety regulator EASA, Careen said. He added that while a harmonized approach is preferable, IATA understands that the introduction of Covid passports will be complicated but intends to make the app work even if information has to be inputted manually.

IATA held the first meeting of close to 20 companies comprising its advisory group on the Travel Pass last week. Pilot programs have begun or are planned with carriers including British Airways, Singapore Airline Ltd. and Qatar Airways. It has also been approached by non-airline parties interested in the app, including Airbnb Inc. and concert organizers.

–With assistance from Corinne Gretler.

Top Photo: A traveler wearing a protective mask walks in San Francisco International Airport (SFO) in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Monday, Dec. 21, 2020. Airline passenger numbers in the U.S. totaled 1.06 million on Dec. 20, compared with 2.52 million the same weekday a year earlier, according to the Transportation Security Administration. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

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