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Special: 'Digital health passports' could enable stress-free travel

Isaac John/Dubai
Filed on November 24, 2020 | Last updated on November 25, 2020 at 09.22 am
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Iata Travel Pass to speed up reopening of borders to international travel through secure sharing information on Covid-19 tests, vaccinations.

The global industry association of airlines, Iata, said it is close to launching a digital health passport – Iata Travel Pass – that will help speed up the reopening of borders to international travel through the secure sharing of information on Covid-19 testing and vaccinations.

The Travel Pass is aimed at managing and verifying “the secure flow of necessary testing or vaccine information among governments, airlines, laboratories and travellers,” with Iata seeing some traction on the introduction of universal testing regimes to kick-start cross-border flights.

The first cross-border Iata Travel Pass pilot is scheduled for later this year and the launch of the programme is planned for the first quarter of 2021.

“Today borders are double locked,” stated Iata director general Alexandre de Juniac.

“Testing is the first key to enable international travel without quarantine measures. The second key is the global information infrastructure needed to securely manage, share and verify test data matched with traveller identities in compliance with border control requirements. That’s the job of Iata Travel Pass. We are bringing this to market in the coming months to also meet the needs of the various travel bubbles and public health corridors that are starting operation," he added.

The Travel Pass will enable governments to verify the authenticity of tests and the identity of those presenting certificates. Airlines will be able to ensure passengers receive the correct information on requirements for travel and that they have acted upon it.

The initiative, which comes as a critical step in reviving the moribund aviation sector battered by Covid-19, will be delivered via four modules: a global registry of health requirements; a global registry of testing and vaccination centres relevant to the requirements of each travel destination; a 'Lab App' to enable authorised laboratories and test centres to share test and vaccination certificates with passengers; and a 'Contactless Travel App' containing all the relevant data and certificates for individual passengers to meet travel requirements.

Passengers themselves will have the means to securely convey test information to airlines and border authorities.

Iata is not alone in developing such a product, with other examples including the Common Pass project and initiatives introduced on a national level by several governments.

IAG, the parent company of British Airways and Iberia, is among those working with Iata on a digital passport system to “manage, share and verify test data matched with traveller identities” to support the safe reopening of borders.

Nick Careen, Iata's senior vice-president, airport, passenger, cargo and security, said its main priority is to get people travelling again safely. In the immediate term, it means giving governments confidence that systematic Covid-19 testing can work as a replacement for quarantine requirements. And that will eventually develop into a vaccine programme. The Iata Travel Pass is a solution for both.”

“We have built it using a modular approach based on open source standards to facilitate interoperability. It can be used in combination with other providers or as a standalone end-to-end solution. The most important thing is that it is responsive to industry’s needs while enabling a competitive market," said Careen.

The platform will make use of Iata’s Timatic passport and visa platform and its OneID identity initiative.

During a webinar, hosted by NIIT Technologies, industry leaders looked into the efficacy of this technology to enable this swift transition from lockdown for companies in the travel, transportation and hospitality industries.

Simon Lamkin, global head of Travel Advisory at NIIT Technologies Limited, said: “The focus of the lockdown strategy around the globe has been purely containment. As we start thinking about moving again, organisations are developing strategies to restart their operations. We have to get the balance right between containment and opening the doors to restart the economy, in order to get employees safely back to work and develop plans to enable us to get back to travel systems.”

In response to this need, NIIT Technologies has partnered with online verification platform APPII to develop and deploy a digital health passport solution that helps determine and verify the health status of an individual.

According to Lamkin, the solution has a wide range of post-lockdown use cases, from helping workers get back to their workplace to ensuring people can travel safely.

“The concept is here, and we are now looking into how we can digitise that and bring it to bear,” explains Lamkin.

“It will all come down to trust – how individuals can verify that they are safe, and how companies can provide a safe environment for their employees.”

issacjohn@khaleejtimes.com

Iata TravelPass

• The first cross-border Iata Travel Pass pilot is scheduled for later this year.

• The launch of the programme is planned for the first quarter of 2021.

• Will enable governments to verify the authenticity of tests and the identity of those presenting certificates.

• The platform will make use of Iata’s Timatic passport and visa platform and its OneID identity initiative.

• IAG, the parent company of BA, Iberia, among those working with Iata.





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