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What We Know About Digital Health Passports






Digital health passports are gaining in popularity as technology companies, airlines, and even governments are developing different versions. But how to make heads or tails of this trend in a way that will allow you to advise your clients with confidence?Here are some of the topics to consider when researching the right one for you and your clients:

Exactly what is a Digital Health Passport?


A digital health passport is a mobile app, or online certification, that displays a traveler’s Covid-19 test result and/or vaccination record. It is designed to convey to airline or border control personnel that someone is at a low risk of acquiring or transmitting the virus.


They are designed to be a reliable way of checking who is eligible to enter a country, depending on that country’s recognition of the type of digital passport, and type of test and/or vaccination. They may also be useful when it comes to “return quarantine rules” for travelers coming back home.


Some airlines and airports offer testing facilities but digital health passports are the likely next step, and are designed to be more universally accepted.

Who is creating these Passports?


Some of the currently offered digital health passports to emerge included


We expect to start seeing collaborations of airlines and countries choosing different passport partners.


Update (3/2/2021): E.U. officials confirmed that they’re working on a European ‘digital green pass’ and the European Commission is expected to publish a draft of the legislation by March 17.


How do Digital Health Passports work?


The idea behind digital health passport is as follows:

1. A traveler downloads an app on their smartphone

2. They either connect that app with their travel provider or upload their itinerary

3. The app provides guidance for what verifications they need to travel

4. The travelers is required to show that they have been tested at a certified testing center or have been vaccinated

5. The app then supplies the traveler with a unique QR code, or other proof, verifying they are safe to fly


While we anticipate that, over time, the systems will become more flexible and user friendly, It is important to know that you may need to have a unique mobile device for each traveler.


IATA claims that its TravelPass is an important step in the collaboration between governments and industry. IATA plans to offer airlines the option to integrate its Travel Pass into their own app — allowing a traveler to bypass downloading a standalone app. This would allow for a single app download and be more practical for most travelers. The app is expected to be available in March of 2021. Other versions are scheduled to allow for group travelers and the addition of minors on one device.


Where are these Passports accepted?


Acceptance of digital health passports differs by product and destination. At this time, it appears that most countries will eventually recognize multiple platforms as acceptable digital health passports, in the same way they purchase different vaccines. One step towards national recognition could be the inclusion of domestic travel requirement. One should expect to use some form of Digital Health Passport in order to board an international (and possibly domestic) flight for your next vacation.


Airlines are also taking a Swiss Army approach to the various platforms. United has tested CommonPass on flights between London and New York. At the same time, it is part of the airline advisory group for Travel Pass. The carrier has also integrated some aspects of a digital health passport into its own app following the CDC Covid testing requirements for all international arrivals in the U.S.

British Airways has tested CommonPass. Singapore Airlines is testing the IATA Travel Pass, with IAG, Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways to follow. American Airlines has made the VeriFLY app available for travelers flying into the U.S., while from Feb. 4 British Airways will be the first airline in the UK to trial it for customers flying from London to the U.S.

Reaching out to the carrier and finding out which app they are accepting during the 4 to 6 weeks before travel is the recommended practice.


How safe is the data in these apps?


As with any system that stores sensitive data, how these passports preserve privacy is being scrutinized.

The ICC AOKPass and IATA TravelPass use blockchain technology. This has advantages because there is no central database that could be hacked to access personal information, and it also means the app providers do not collect personal and medical data.


VeriFLY, which is being offered by identity assurance technology company Daon, uses biometric authentication.

Other providers are looking at different approaches. On their websites it tends to be one of the primary subjects they address.


The V-Health Passport, for example, describes a trademarked VCode that has 2.2 quintillion secure VCode image variations (roughly 300 million per person on the planet).


Will these Digital Health Passports create a travel rebound?


The straight-forward answer is: perhaps. The passport technology is gaining traction with airlines and governments, but we are really in the early (pilot) phase.

As the process matures, governments will align over their choice of choices of provider, and travelers will be less confused. We are seeing the development of new solutions as well, including a 15-minute test that works with your mobile device from Australian company Ellume that the US government has invested over $200 million in.


The reality is that regulations and processes are needed to establish standards and normalcy and give confidence to the average traveler. The technology is here as well as a willingness to collaborate, but a lot depends on borders reopening, the uptake of vaccinations at scale and more global standards for these passports.

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