Next week, a new digital health passport plan is to be piloted by a small number of passengers flying from the UK to the US for the first time, according to Covid’s global safe airline system.
The CommonPass system, supported by the World Economic Forum (WEF), is designed to create a common international standard for passengers to demonstrate that they do not have coronavirus.
However, critics of such schemes point to concerns about the sensitivity and specificity of tests in different countries amid fears of increased monitoring of human movement.
Paul Meyer, director general of the Commons project, which received funding from the Rockefeller Foundation two years ago and created a digital medical pass, said countries that have closed borders and quarantined are looking for ways to “deliberately restore”; their borders.
“It’s hard to do,” he told the Guardian. “This requires an opportunity to assess the health of the travelers … Hopefully, we will soon begin to see some vaccines on the market, but there is not just one vaccine.
“Some countries will probably say, ‘Okay, I want to review the documentation that you received one of these vaccines, but not one of these vaccines.’
Referring to existing requirements in a number of countries, including yellow fever vaccination paper, Meyer said similar digital evidence for coronavirus may soon be needed for travel in the “near future.”
He added: “We are talking about reducing the risk. There is no absolutely safe solution. It’s about providing information that can help countries reduce the risk of it spreading. “
The test will apply to passengers flying from Heathrow to Newark, USA, on a United Airlines flight on Wednesday.
Tests from the private test company Prenetics will be conducted by travel and medical services company Collinson at the Covid-19 testing facilities created with Swissport. This follows the pilot of Cathay Pacific on flights between Hong Kong and Singapore.
However, the test commonly used in the UK is not a test for infection, experts say, because it does not distinguish between those who have the virus and are contagious, and those who are no longer infectious. As a result, there were many erroneous results.
There are also suspicions that such schemes could provide greater monitoring of human movement and health, according to an article published in the Lancet on Friday. However, they added, they can facilitate safer traffic, and privacy issues are neither unique nor insurmountable.
CommonPass confirms the traveler’s compliance with the requirements of the US border after testing at the London airport 72 hours before the trip, as well as filling out a questionnaire to check the state of health.
Then, in the case of a negative test, a QR code is issued, which can be scanned by airline employees and border guards. The process of securing a refund for a flight after a positive test was unclear. CommonPass will be paid by the airlines for the service.
Most newcomers to the UK are currently quarantined for two weeks, and only about 45 countries are on the travel corridor quarantine list.
Mark Burgess, director of process improvement at Heathrow, told the Times: “For some time now, Heathrow has been calling for a common international standard and cross-border pilots, as this can help governments around the world and industry uncover the benefits of aviation testing.”
A spokesman for the Department of Transportation said: “The government is working with industry to identify and implement options to reduce the period of self-isolation through testing to protect public health.
“We are consulting closely with partners in the aviation, tourism, security and testing sectors, as well as with existing administrations, to develop measures to rehabilitate the tourism sector as soon as possible.”