Enabling safer air, cross border travel with digital health pass
*World Health Summit advocates achieving health for all through digital collaboration
As part of measures to control the spread of Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and safely open international travel and trade, the Federal Government had declared a COVID-19 Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test certificate and negative results mandatory requirements for exit or entry into the country.
Unfortunately, one month after international flights resumed in Nigeria, allegations of fraud and test certificate racketeering trail foreign air travels.
To address the gap, a verified ‘digital health pass,’ which provides a global framework for laboratory results and vaccination records to be verified and shared with border control has been validated.
Scientists have demonstrated the efficacy of a long-term solution to replace travel bans and quarantines with the ability to verify individual health and test result data while maintaining privacy standards.
They said for global travel and trade to return to pre-pandemic levels, travelers will need a secure and verifiable way to document their health status as they travel and cross borders. Countries will need to be able to trust that a traveller’s record of a COVID-19 PCR test or vaccination administered in another country is valid.
In a global initiative to enable safer air and cross-border travel, Internova Travel Group joined The Commons Project Foundation in successfully testing its CommonPass digital health pass for travelers to document their verified COVID-19 test status on a transatlantic flight.
The successful international trial of CommonPass, tested on a flight from London to New York, was led by Internova executives: J.D. O’Hara, Chief Executive Officer (CEO); Peter Vlitas, Senior Vice President, Airline Relations; Jason Oshiokpekhai, Managing Director, Global Travel Collection (GTC); and Arif Kamal, Director of Revenue Management, GTC.
The executives traveled on October 21 on United Airlines Flight 15 from London Heathrow to Newark Liberty International Airport. Prior to departure, they downloaded the CommonPass app, answered screening questions, and took a COVID-19 test at the airport. A negative test result generated a digital health pass via a QR code, which allowed them to board the flight at London-Heathrow Airport.
O’Hara, during an online press conference, said: “The ability to verify health information in a secure, verified manner will allow countries and regions to open borders and restart the travel industry along with the economic activity that comes with it.
“This CommonPass pilot demonstrates that we have a means of enabling safer cross-border travel by giving both travelers and governments confidence in the COVID-19 status of every traveler.”
O’Hara said his commitment to finding safer ways to restart travel fueled his interest in participating in the transatlantic trial to experience the viability of the process. He described the experience as easy to understand, quick, and efficient. “I consider the trial a resounding success and feel sure that travelers will soon have the confidence to get back in the air in a safe and secure manner,” he said.
CEO at the Commons Project, Paul Meyer, said: “The goal of the trials is to replicate the full traveler experience of taking a test for COVID-19 prior to departure, uploading the result to their phones, and demonstrating their compliance with entry requirements at their departure and destination airports. The digital health pass allows countries and regions seeking ways to ‘thoughtfully reopen’ their borders an alternative to travel bans and quarantines.”
At present, COVID-19 test results for travel are frequently shared on printed paper – or photos of the paper – from unknown labs, often written in languages foreign to those inspecting them.
Internova’s Vlitas said: “It is critical that we find safe ways to reopen travel. Travel and tourism account for 10 percent of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP), or nearly $9 trillion. A verifiable and standardized way to share test or vaccine status on an international scale is critical to restoring confidence in our air transportation system.
“The safety of its citizens is paramount to any government’s decision to replace quarantines with testing. We are at a point that effective testing, a reliable medical registry, such as CommonPass, combined with contact tracing done by travel advisors can offer that solution.”
O’Hara said CommonPass adheres to tight privacy principles and is designed to protect personal data in compliance with relevant privacy regulations, including General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
Chief Medical Officer of The Commons Project and former Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Dr. Bradley Perkins, said: “Without the ability to trust COVID-19 tests – and eventually vaccine records – across international borders, many countries will feel compelled to retain full travel bans and mandatory quarantines for as long as the pandemic persists.
“With trusted individual health data, countries can implement more nuanced health screening requirements for entry.”
Webplusmore is Common Pass promoters and official integrator for Nigeria. Webplusmore is a portal management company deploying technology to drive innovation in the health, retail business, travel, and tourism sectors of the Nigerian market.
Project Team Lead, Webplusmore, Omorhode Ukudolo, told journalists: “In April 2020, with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, the company went to work to deploy an app to manage a borderless COVID-19 passport (virtual health passport).
“In the cause of our deployment, we discovered a noble cause inline with our goals – The Commons Project Foundation. Today, we are extremely delighted to be the implementation team for Common Pass in Nigeria working with the Foundation.”
On July 9, 2020, The Commons Project, The World Economic Forum, and The Rockefeller Foundation convened more than 350 public and private sector leaders from 52 countries to come together to design a common framework for safe border reopening.
To use CommonPass, travellers take a COVID-19 test at a certified lab and upload the results to their mobile phones. They then complete any additional health screening questionnaires required by the destination country.
With test results and questionnaire complete, CommonPass confirms a traveller’s compliance with the destination country entry requirements and generates a QR code. Airline staff and border officials can scan that code. A QR code can be printed for users without mobile devices.
Meanwhile, the World Health Summit has advocated achieving health for all/Universal Health Coverage (UHC) through digital collaboration.
According to a statement by the World Health Organisation (WHO), “digital technologies are revolutionising healthcare and provide unprecedented opportunities to improve health and wellbeing worldwide, transform economies, and stimulate growth. For the first time in history, we have new tools to solve health system problems and create an equitable global health future.”
“If we are to realize the benefits of digital transformation in health care, it will take a global collaboration among governments, development partners and donors, the private sector, civil societies, academics, and Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs).
“The purpose of this event is to engage the multi-stakeholder digital community to contribute to the prioritisation, adoption, and acceleration of digital health technologies and create a strong and sustainable partnership model for digital health as we encourage key stakeholders to invest in the global digital health ecosystem.”
No comments yet