India may be entering the 'endemic' stage of Coronavirus, World Health Organisation Chief Scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan has said. Meanwhile, as vaccine drives are in full-swing around the world, many countries, including several European nations, have begun opening their doors to fully-vaccinated travellers.
For now, this is done through a list of approved vaccines by each country. Travellers have to produce vaccination certificates or negative RT-PCR test reports, issued from their country of origin.
The travel industry, airlines, and governments are eager to introduce a digital alternative that does away with these certificates, making verification easier and travel less cumbersome in the future.
What are Covid vaccine passports?
Simply put, a digital passport is like a digital wallet that contains everything you will need to travel in the post-COVID world. The single digital document will include your vaccination status, COVID test reports, COVID history if any, details of travel regulations and digital labs.
It will allow both travel and access to spaces meant for fully-vaccinated individuals without the hassle of verification at every point of entry.
Which countries are using Covid vaccine passports?
Some countries have already started using a version of a COVID passport. This will help travellers avoid quarantine based on their vaccination status.
UK allows citizens to establish proof of vaccination through the NHS Covid Pass app. France has its own health pass that allows individuals entry to venues like restaurants, bars, and theatres. China has a QR code system that categories citizens into red, yellow and green, based on risk. Israel has introduced a green pass for entry to large events and some publics places.
The European Union (EU) has introduced a digital pass that is now valid in 27 member countries and others like Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. It can be obtained by EU citizens and residents for travel. It comes enabled with a QR code that allows access to vaccine certificates, COVID recovery certificates and COVID test reports.
Made available in both print and digital formats, the EU Digital Covid Certificate exempts travellers from quarantine and testing regulations when crossing borders in the applicable countries.
Countries like Denmark and Estonia have announced their own vaccine passports. The USA has so far ruled out a universal green pass even as a few states are making use of vaccination apps.
Are travel passports available for Indians?
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) Travel Pass initiative is also testing one out. The IATA Travel Pass can be accessed through an app by the same name. It has features for governments to disburse travel information to passengers, airlines to check vaccination status, accredited labs to issue reports securely, and passengers to create digital passports and manage travel documentation.
It is currently available on invite through partner airlines only. Indian carriers Indigo Airlines and SpiceJet are both part of the trials and plan to launch the pilot, on Friday and next week, respectively. Several international airlines have also partnered with IATA on this initiative.
What is India's stand on digital passports?
India does not plan to launch a digital vaccine passport at the moment. In fact, it opposed their adoption at the G7 Summit held in June this year citing its discriminatory nature against countries with low vaccine coverage and digital access.
A WHO panel, has also advised against countries mandating digital passports for international travel owing to inequitable distribution of vaccines suggesting instead, a risk-based approach to curb the spread of the virus.
Can you link your passport to your vaccination certificate?
In the absence of vaccination passports and the likelihood of their introduction in India minimal, it is possible to link your COVID vaccination certificate to your passport for international travel.
Here's how you can do that:
1. Visit the CoWIN website or app. Click on the 'Raise and issue' tab on the right-hand top corner next to your mobile number.
2. Select 'Add passport details to my vaccination certificate for travelling abroad'.
3. Enter your name and passport number.
4. Double check the passport number (you only get one chance) and check the declaration box.
5. Go back to your account details and click on the 'certificate' button next to the beneficiary that you have added passport details for.
6. Now, download the new vaccination certificate with your passport number on it.