It has felt like an eternity since we had the freedom of safe, unmitigated travel to the far reaches of the globe. The constantly evolving COVID-19 situation has seen borders reopen and subsequently close again in a matter of days, with contrasting regulations from country to country and general unease about both travelling and returning safely home. However, hope remains on the horizon for everyone ranging from the die-hard wanderlust seekers to those who simply want a well-deserved break; the prospect of the COVID vaccination passport could usher in a euphoric step toward normality for travel.
What is a Vaccine Passport? 🛂
Essentially, a vaccination passport is an official form of documentation that proves that the holder has received a single dose of Janssen or two doses of Pfizer, Astra Zeneca or Moderna. These passports vary from country to country, but the majority can be acquired either digitally or physically.
The UK 🇬🇧
The NHS has rolled out a new feature on their app called the NHS COVID Pass that serves as certification for vaccinations and proof of COVID PCR test results. Those who can apply for the COVID pass must have waited at least two weeks after their final vaccination dosage for maximum protection and be over 16 years old. From July 19th, it looks as though those who have an NHS COVID Pass will not have to self-isolate when returning to the UK from anywhere on the Government’s green or amber listed countries.
Where Can British Citizens Travel? 🗺
It is important to note that not all countries will accept the NHS app as a form of certification, however, Croatia, Cyprus, France, Greece, Portugal, and Spain have clarified that the app does qualify as proof of vaccination.
The green list currently includes:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- Balearic Islands
- British Antarctic Territory
- British Indian Ocean Territory
- British Virgin Islands
- Cayman Islands
- Pitcairn Islands
- Turks and Caicos Islands
Please bear in mind that countries do change their stance on the NHS app and it is worth double-checking its validity before embarking on your next adventure.
EU Vaccine Passport 🇪🇺
The EU has been working on their equivalent version of a vaccine passport, known as the EU Digital COVID Certificate. The pass can be temporarily granted to EU citizens who have had a negative PCR test result within 48 hours and/or permanently approved for those who have been double-jabbed. This means that theoretically, EU citizens should be able to travel relatively freely throughout the entirety of the EU and beyond as deals have been struck with Norway, Liechtenstein, Iceland and Switzerland too. Whilst still in the process of being rolled out, this could see EU citizens move without the need for quarantine.
This free of charge process will work as a QR code that can be scanned using an app or via paper.
The United States is incredibly varied. Perhaps due to the large landmass, the President recently announced that there would not be a nationwide 'vaccine passport app'. Instead, it would be down to the individual states to develop and legislate the usage of a COVID travel pass. Due to differences in approaches to tackling COVID, some states are already using travel passports, whereas others have banned them.
As of writing this (14/07/21), the States using a passport system are as follows:
- New York
No Position 🤷
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- North Carolina
- Rhode Island
- West Virginia
- North Dakota
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
Japan recently announced they plan to use the vaccine passport concept, modelling it around the EU’s design. Whilst a plan is being devised, there is currently no digital app, but physical certificates are being produced free of charge for those that qualify.
From July 1st, Thailand are trialing their Phuket Sandbox Programme which aims to allow travellers to travel to the idyllic isle of Phuket without the need for quarantine. Those who are fully vaccinated can travel with minimal hassle and escape away.
Taiwan is considering the prospect of a COVID passport system and potentially opening their strictly shut borders. However, the Taiwanese population is no where near fully vaccinated due to delays in the supply for jabs and it looks as though the passport conversation will only roll into motion when far more of the population are protected.
India is a tricky situation as their version of the AstraZeneca vaccination, Covishield, is recognised by WHO but not the EU's health regulations. Due to this, WHO and Covax launched a scathing criticism, explaining how "Such moves are already undermining confidence in life-saving vaccines that have already been shown to be safe and effective, affecting uptake of vaccines and potentially putting billions of people at risk".
IATA - Travel Pass Initiative 💺
The International Air Transport Association is currently trialing a ‘Travel Pass Initiative’. Consisting of hundreds of major airlines companies, IATA offers a comprehensive app that offers proof of identity, vaccination and PCR test results, as well as providing information on the rules for leaving and entering the chosen countries and where test sites can be found if necessary. A selection of IATA’s airline companies are trialing the travel pass, these include Air Baltic, Air New Zealand, Air Serbia, Emirates, Etihad, Ethiopian Airlines, Iberia, Korean Air, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, Saudia, Swiss and Virgin Atlantic.