A new digital “health passport” will be piloted by a small number of passengers flying from the UK to the US for the first time next week as part of plans for a global framework for safe air travel with Covid.
The CommonPass system, supported by the World Economic Forum (WEF), aims to create a common international standard for passengers to prove that it does not contain coronavirus.
Critics of such schemes, however, have raised concerns about the sensitivity and specificity of tests in different countries amid fears of greater monitoring of people̵
Paul Meyer, CEO of the Commons project, which received funding from the Rockefeller Foundation two years ago and created the digital health card, said countries that have closed borders and quarantined are looking for ways to “open their borders deliberately.”
“It’s hard to do that,” he told the Guardian. “An opportunity is needed to assess the health of incoming passengers … We hope to see some vaccines on the market soon, but there will not be just one vaccine.
“Some countries will probably say, ‘Okay, I want to see documentation that you received one of these vaccines, but not one of these vaccines.’
Citing existing requirements in a number of countries, in particular paper-based evidence of yellow fever vaccination, Meyer said such evidence – kept in digital form – of coronavirus could soon be needed to travel in the “foreseeable future”.
He added: “This is about reducing risk. There is no completely safe solution. This is 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.
The tests from the private testing company Prenetics will be administered by travel and medical services company Collinson at the Covid-19 test facilities created with Swissport. He then pilots Cathay Pacific on flights between Hong Kong and Singapore.
However, the test commonly used in the UK is not a test for contagion, experts say, as it does not differentiate between those who have the virus and are contagious and those who are no longer contagious. As a result, there are many false results.
There are also suspicions that such schemes could provide a way to better monitor people’s movements and health, according to a publication published in the Lancet on Friday. However, he added, they can facilitate safer traffic and privacy concerns are neither unique nor insurmountable.
CommonPass confirms that the passenger complies with the requirements of the US borders after a test at London airport up to 72 hours before the trip, along with completing a health screening questionnaire.
A QR code is then generated, which can be scanned by airline staff and border guards in the event of a negative test. The process of ensuring a refund for the flight after a positive test was unclear. CommonPass will be paid by the airlines for the service.
Currently, most arrivals in the UK have to be quarantined for two weeks, with only about 45 countries on the list of quarantined travel corridors.
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 they could help governments around the world and industry unlock the benefits of aviation tests. “
A spokesman for the Ministry of Transport said: “The government is working with industry to identify and implement options to reduce the period of self-isolation through testing, while protecting public health.
“We are consulting closely with partners in the aviation, travel, health and testing sectors, as well as with delegated administrations, to develop measures to support the recovery of the tourism sector as soon as possible.”