As vaccination rates climb, the travel industry is pushing for a COVID-19 passport that can allow Travelers to move from country to country for business and leisure.
Travel has become difficult in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic — especially international travel. To move from country to country, Travelers are often required to self-isolate for a period of time or to produce a negative test. Expect that to change as COVID-19 vaccinations become more readily available around the world in 2021. Instead of Travelers needing to self-isolate or test negative, they will now need to obtain a COVID-19 passport.
What is a COVID-19 passport? It’s simply digital evidence of the carrier’s health status, including evidence of vaccination. The question in recent months has been: Who will create a COVID-19 passport that will be widely accessible, approved and adopted around the world?
An answer to that question is now emerging.
The Commons Project, the World Economic Forum and other partners have launched CommonPass, a leading contender to become the go-to COVID-19 passport for Travelers and others who may need to show proof of vaccination. Here’s a look at everything you need to know about CommonPass as the world opens up again.
How Does CommonPass Work?
CommonPass is a mobile application designed to do 2 things. First, the app includes information that can help users meet any country’s requirements for entry. And, second, the app emphasizes the protection of a user’s health data and privacy. The ultimate goal is to generate widespread adoption so that the world can return to life as usual — and travel as usual.
The CommonPass app will specifically include information related to COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, vaccination status and health declarations. CommonPass can access lab results and vaccination records from a number of sources, including personal health records, health care provider data systems, and government registries. This sensitive information is stored on the user’s device, where it remains completely under the user’s control — information is only shared at the user’s direction.
On the back end, CommonPass determines whether or not a source of health records is “trusted,” as well as whether or not health records are sufficient to meet a country’s entry requirements. The CommonPass system is also structured to share the minimal amount of information needed. In many cases, the information is shared in a simple yes-no format. For example, has the user tested negative for COVID-19 in the past week? Or, has the user received a COVID-19 vaccination? This yes-no approach to sharing information helps maintain privacy and enhance data security.
Who Owns CommonPass?
More than 350 leaders from 52 countries came together to create the framework for CommonPass. The application itself is held in a nonprofit public trust, which means that CommonPass exists independent of influence by governments or corporations.
The nonprofit nature of CommonPass and the broad coalition of worldwide leaders that participated in its creation are essential to the success of any COVID-19 passport.
The nonprofit status of CommonPass ensures that the application will be free to use, and independence from government and corporate interests means that CommonPass can serve the greater good without bias.
The broad, diverse group of people who participated in the creation of CommonPass will certainly help with acceptance, too. Keep in mind that a COVID-19 passport is only as good as the number of countries that will accept it. The participation of more than 50 countries in the creation of CommonPass is a good indication that it will be widely accepted around the world.
When Will CommonPass Be Available?
CommonPass has been in a testing phase since late last year. United Airlines conducted a test in fall 2020, asking volunteers to use the app as part of their journey from London to Newark. All Nippon Airways conducted a similar test of the app in March as part of a flight from Tokyo to New York City.
The app is currently available by invitation only. But there are signs that CommonPass will soon be accessible to a much larger audience. Some airlines have already started making CommonPass available to passengers on international flights. And, as the rate of vaccination continues to increase, look for CommonPass to become one of the most trusted and used (if not the most trusted and used) COVID-19 passport on the market.
Is a COVID-19 Passport the Right Solution?
The potential emergence of COVID-19 passports is not without controversy. The travel industry is pushing for a COVID-19 passport solution, taking the position that it is the best way to reopen the world for travel. But some are concerned that a COVID-19 passport will create discrimination and confusion.
As a business Executive, you will have to determine how to handle COVID-19 passports as part of your travel program. Questions remain around information security and even what COVID-19 passports should be called. For example, is “passport” the right term?
Ideally, these questions will be answered in sync with the rollout of COVID-19 passports. In a perfect situation, there would also be a readily available alternative to COVID-19 passports for those who want to travel but do not feel comfortable with applications like CommonPass.
But, Executives should start thinking through their own answers and solutions should the ideal situation fail to develop.
Get Help Navigating the New Normal in Business Travel
The team at JTB Business Travel is always here to help our clients with their travel needs — during times of health as well as times of pandemic. The past year has been incredibly challenging for companies that rely on travel to meet their business objectives, but we’ve found ways to keep our clients moving forward in the face of these challenges.
Now, as these passports become a part of the travel landscape, we’re here to help you with COVID-19 passports, too. Visit our Waypoint Blog for more information on COVID-19 passports as it becomes available, and get in touch with us to learn more about our common-sense approach to business travel — and what we can do to help your business.