Travelers may be required to show proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 tests to enter certain countries. But the new director general of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said Wednesday that these measures will likely be temporary.
According to CNBC, Willie Walsh, who was the former CEO of International Consolidated Airlines Group, gave his first press briefing as the head of IATA and said that once we are through the pandemic, “we want to see these restrictions permanently removed so people can get back to traveling as they experienced in 2019.”
In the meantime, Walsh says that digital health certificates will make traveling easier.
IATA, which represents 300 airlines, has rolled out its own digital passport, according to CNBC. Other airlines such as Jet Blue and United Airlines have plans to develop similar passports and will be conducting trials in collaboration with The Commons Project Foundation.
Airline industry groups have asked the Biden administration to lift travel bans and exempt vaccinated people from international testing rules. A recent report noted that while the White House is talking about emerging vaccine passports around the world, press secretary Jen Psaki said, “the government is not now, nor will be, supporting a system that requires Americans to carry a credential. There will be no federal data base and no federal mandate requiring everyone to obtain a single vaccination credential.”
According to Business Insider, the European Union has proposed a vaccine passport for its 27 countries that would permit EU citizens to travel within Europe by the summer. Israel and China already have vaccine passports.
New York recently launched its own state-side version of a vaccine pass. According to USA Today, the Excelsior Pass is the first in the nation to offer a prototype of a vaccine pass that will allow people to attend large-scale arenas such as Madison Square Garden and other events statewide. Users of the app will be able to display a QR, or quick response, code to prove their health status.
While vaccine passports are being hailed as the key to reopening the global economy, especially for the airline industry that lost trillions of dollars during the pandemic, opponents say they are discriminatory and may ultimately be irrelevant.
“The vaccine passport could wind up being irrelevant because by the time everyone gets inoculated, so do you really need one?” said Bryan Del Monte, president of the Aviation Agency, and formerly the U.S. Department of Defense’s deputy director for policy development and international issues. He noted that travelers do not need proof of vaccination for other diseases such as measles or rubella.
Last Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its travel guidance saying that fully vaccinated people can travel freely within the United States without the need for testing and self-quarantine. The CDC extended its guidance to Americans traveling internationally, saying if they are fully vaccinated, they do not require testing upon departure nor self-quarantine upon arrival back home. The CDC noted that exceptions could be made if the destination certain states require proof of health.
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