This COVID-19 Passport Could Help Restart International Travel

Given the massive decrease in international airline travel caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, airline executives have maintained that testing passengers could make flights safer and encourage prospective passengers to get back in the air. Airlines such as Emirates, Etihad and United are already starting testing programs for their flights at airports. But a new pass that is starting to test this week could open borders worldwide on a much broader basis.

Launched by the World Economic Forum and The Commons Project Foundation, a Swiss-based nonprofit, in conjunction with representatives of 37 countries in six continents, the digital pass CommonPass is starting international trials showing a passenger’s COVID-19 status while protecting other health information. Cathay Pacific Airlines is set to operate a trial between Hong Kong International Airport and Singapore Changi International Airport using rapid testing technology provided by the Hong Kong based laboratory Prenetics; United Airlines, the first airline to test the platform in the United States, will use it on flights between London Heathrow Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport. Further tests are planned on additional airlines and routes across Asia, Africa, the Americas, Europe and the Middle East.

“Travel and tourism has been down across the board due to the COVID pandemic,” said Diane Sabatino, Deputy Executive Director, Office of Field Operations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). “CBP wants to be part of the solution to build confidence in air travel, and we are glad to help the aviation industry and our federal partners stand up a pilot like CommonPass.”

To use CommonPass, travelers take a COVID-19 test at a certified lab and upload the results to their mobile phone. They then complete any additional health screening questionnaires required by the destination country. CommonPass then confirms a traveler’s compliance with the destination country entry requirements and generates a QR code which can be scanned by airline staff and border officials. A QR code can be printed for users without mobile devices.

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