The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has applauded the growing number of countries making data and evidence-driven decisions to open their borders to vaccinated travellers. The latest data collected by IATA, including via its Timatic service, shows that more than 20 countries have wholly or partially lifted restrictions for vaccinated travellers.

    IATA supports unrestricted access to travel for vaccinated passengers. In cases where vaccination is not possible, it advocates that access to quarantine-free travel should be provided through Covid-19 testing strategies based on widely available, free-of-charge tests.

    Commenting on the situation, IATA director general Willie Walsh said: “A gap is opening up between countries responding to scientific evidence and those exhibiting a lack of preparation or excessive caution in reopening borders. Countries that seize the opportunity offered by the increasing numbers of vaccinated travellers can protect their populations and reap an economic reward.”

    German approach is lauded

    Germany is among the latest countries to make quarantine alleviations for vaccinated travellers. Vaccinated passengers are no longer subject to quarantine measures (except from certain high-risk countries). Germany has also removed quarantine requirements for those with a negative Covid-19 test result (again, except from certain high-risk countries).

    The German government decision followed a review of scientific advice from the world-renowned Robert Koch Institute (RKI), which concluded that vaccinated travellers are no longer significant in the spread of the disease and do not pose a major risk to the German population. Specifically, it stated that vaccination reduces the risk of Covid-19 transmission to levels below the risk from a false negative rapid antigen test.

    The implementation of this policy aligns Germany with recommendations from both the European Commission and the European Parliament, based on similar scientific advice from the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC). In its interim guidance on the benefits of full vaccination, the ECDC said that “based on the limited evidence available, the likelihood of an infected vaccinated person transmitting the disease is currently assessed to be very low to low.”

    Digital solutions for vaccination certificates

    IATA polling indicates that 81 per cent of international travellers are willing to get vaccinated in order to be able to travel. Moreover, 74 per cent of people in the same poll agreed that those vaccinated should be able to travel by air without restrictions.

    The decisions of increasing numbers of countries to accept vaccinated travellers without quarantine measures adds pressure for a digital solution to manage vaccine certificates and Covid-19 test results. Paper-based processes could lead to extremely long processing times at check-in and border control and they also open the door to fraud.

    Digital vaccine/test certificates, coupled with passenger apps such as the IATA Travel Pass, will be needed to manage travel health credentials efficiently and securely in the restart. Recent IATA polling shows strong support for a digital solution: 89 per cent supported globally standardised Covid-19 test or vaccination certifications; and 84 per cent want an app to manage their travel health credentials.

    Back in April, it was announced that passengers traveling to Singapore from now on will be able to use the IATA Travel Pass to share their pre-departure Covid-19 PCR test results upon check-in with their airline, as well as on arrival at the immigration checkpoints at Changi Airport. This is part of an ongoing collaboration between the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) and IATA to facilitate seamless and efficient travel through digital certificates of Covid-19 tests.