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Risk experts say immunisation passports could play important role in domestic tourism

February 25, 2021 Coronavirus (Covid-19) No Comments

Travel risk management insurer World Travel Protection has announced its support for the Australian Government’s plans to adopt COVID-19 vaccination certificates as the roll out of the nationwide vaccination program begins.

Earlier this month, the Australian government released details of its plans to introduce vaccination certificates, saying it is “highly likely” that these certificates, or similar passport documentation, will be needed for international travel into the country.

The announcement comes amid growing international discussion on the viability of vaccination passports. Some countries, such as Denmark and Sweden, have already shared plans to launch digital vaccine passports.

While these vaccination passports will be vital when international leisure travel resumes, World Travel Protection’s CEO, Adrian Leach, says there is merit to the idea of the government introducing the digital scheme sooner.

“It could be a substantial period of time until we reach herd immunity in the community, and even longer until travel corridors begin to appear. Until then, it’s highly likely we will continue to experience fluctuating border restrictions and snap lockdowns, as we’ve seen in Victoria. This creates a lot of uncertainty for business travellers as well as the domestic tourism industry.”

Mr Leach refers to specialised industries, such as mining and wind farming, which require specialists to be present on site to carry out work, as businesses that will be disrupted by ongoing uncertainty.

“For these employees and their employers to have stability, we need some form of documentation that will help airlines and authorities process these individuals quickly and securely. A domestic COVID-19 vaccination passport could bring more confidence to both domestic business and leisure travellers. It could also provide peace of mind to all travellers that they are travelling as part of a reliably safe cohort of other immunised travellers.”

The future of international travel

There has been growing interest in an immunisation passport following last month’s announcement from The International Air Transport Association (IATA) that it will introduce a Travel Pass, which stores verified COVID-19 test or vaccination results on a traveller’s mobile device. So far, Singapore Airlines, Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways have all announced they will be trialling the app.

The timeframe for international travel returning could take longer, as countries such as the United States and United Kingdom take longer to vaccinate their larger populations. Last month, Federal Department of Health Secretary Brendan Murphy said Australians were likely to be blocked from most international travel until at least 2022.

When international travel does resume, Mr Leach predicts countries with successful vaccination programs – such as New Zealand, Israel and the United Arab Emirates – will be the first to be in a position to establish travel corridors with Australia. Immunisation passports could play a crucial role in policing these travel bubbles and making the industry secure.

Having the right support systems

In addition to a robust documentation scheme, Mr Leach says it’s also important for all travellers to have an insurance provider that will be able to assist should they find themselves in a difficult logistical situation overseas or locally, or who may need emergency medical assistance.

World Travel Protection’s Travel Assist Portal, which is kept up to date around the clock, is designed to help travellers keep across the most up-to-date border and travel information before departing, on the road and returning home, including changes to COVID-19 restrictions in each destination.

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