The COVID-19 Vaccine Passport: Your Ticket to Freedom?
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Although some countries are experiencing a surge of Covid-19 cases, infection rates are expected to slowly ease, as herd immunity is gradually achieved through vaccination programmes.
In view of this, governments are beginning to discuss new travel regulations in hopes to reopen their borders to international travel by the end of this year (2021). One common requirement that many countries are introducing is a ‘vaccine passport’ that will allow you more freedom and flexibility to travel, without mandatory quarantine.
A vaccine passport is not a new form of health certification, created just because of Covid-19, as you may believe. Historically, proof of immunisation against various infectious diseases have been mandated worldwide to curb widespread outbreaks. For example, in the 1800, travellers to the United States had to prove that they had been vaccinated against smallpox, countries like Ghana and Uganda demand proof of a yellow fever vaccine from travellers and, in Saudi Arabia, one can’t do the pilgrimage to Mecca without being immunised against meningitis.
Fast-forward back to 2021, besides having travel insurance coverage, you would most likely be required to show a vaccine passport to demonstrate vaccination against Covid-19 and as your ticket to freedom for international travel!
What is a COVID-19 vaccine passport?
Covid-19 vaccine passports are essentially government issued certificates – either in digital or physical form – that prove you’ve received both doses (or one dose for certain vaccines) of any of the available Covid-19 vaccines worldwide.
In some countries, vaccine certificates are also issued to those who have recently tested negative for Covid-19 or have built immunity against it after having been infected. However, it’s still unclear if natural immunity built against a certain strain of Covid-19 is enough to ensure the person does not get infected with a more aggressive variant.
Is the vaccine passport mandatory for worldwide travel?
Currently, Covid-19 vaccine passports are not mandatory for travel to all countries, although it seems likely to become a global travel requirement to ensure your health and safety are not affected when travelling overseas. Also, it’s important to note that the country you plan to visit may still have other travel restrictions and requirements in place due to the pandemic. It’s best to check their official websites for this, prior to travel.
With that said, some countries worldwide have either already implemented it or are currently discussing the plausibility of establishing this as a requirement to allow their citizens to travel among participating countries or be granted exemptions to certain Covid-19 restrictions within their own country.
Can I travel internationally if I have not received the COVID-19 vaccine?
Seeing that the Covid-19 vaccine passport is currently not mandatory in all countries, you can still travel overseas even though you have not received the Covid-19 vaccine. Provided you meet all other entry requirements of the country you plan to visit of course.
Current travel requirements that are in place for almost all countries across the globe include, negative Covid-19 test results and quarantine upon arrival. Good news is, some countries will pay for you to visit even with these restrictions in place.
What are the advantages of a vaccine passport?
Global experts concur that Covid-19 vaccine passports can offer health and even economic benefits for societies, besides the fact that it’ll enable you to travel abroad with fewer restrictions.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) also believes that vaccine passports can effectively help the global body keep track of vaccination counts worldwide, which will help them manage global health concerns better.
Are there any disadvantages of a vaccine passport?
The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), a forum for the global travel and tourism industry, is opposed to opening travel to only those who have been vaccinated. The forum argues that this restriction could be discriminatory against those from less advanced countries that have no access to Covid-19 vaccines, and also against different age groups that are yet to receive their injections.
There’s also an argument of whether vaccine passports are ethical. Some are uneasy with the possibility of data breaches that it poses, as they contain sensitive personal information.
Which countries are currently using a vaccine passport?
Presently, Member States under the European Union (EU), such as Bulgaria, Czechia, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Croatia and Poland have already started issuing vaccine passports to enable those vaccinated to travel restriction-free throughout Europe, with Ireland following suit. And the EU is proposing that showcasing a a vaccine passport be made mandatory to travel throughout the Schengen Area once it is approved.
According to BBC News, some countries are forming vaccine alliances to open a travel bubble between participating countries. Currently, Israel has a travel bubble with Greece that permits fully vaccinated travellers from either country to travel between borders. China also has a vaccine passport system for foreign travellers. Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland are other countries that have announced plans to follow the vaccine passport system for interstate travel. In Georgia, Estonia, Poland, and Seychelles, proof of Covid-19 vaccination allows incoming foreign travellers to avoid certain travel restrictions, like testing or quarantining. While other countries are considering the use of Covid-19 vaccine passports, for domestic or international travel, including the United Kingdom, Greece, Denmark, the U.S., Malaysia and Singapore.
Do You Have Your Covid-19 Vaccine Passport?
Covid-19 vaccine passports seem to be a very likely travel requirement for domestic or cross-border travel in the near future, and its use will probably increase over time, as more people are vaccinated and governments seek to find ways to balance public health concerns while also easing a return to some level of normalcy.
In Singapore, a Vaccination HealthCert as it’s called, has been introduced as an indication that you have been fully vaccinated. To be eligible for it, Singaporeans are advised to get vaccinated, and the vaccine is free for all Singaporeans and long-term residents.
After receiving both doses of the vaccine, you can log on to Notαrise to submit your Pre-Departure Test (PDT) for digital authentication and endorsement by the Ministry of Health (MOH) or to receive your Vaccination HealthCert – which is your Covid-19 vaccine passport – for outbound travel. Once you log in, you have to select document type (PDT Certificate or Vaccination HealthCert), verify your email, then fill-up the form according to the instructions provided, and finally submit it. You will be notified via email once your request is approved, and you’ll receive the document shortly after.
We also encourage you to get comprehensive travel insurance, should you choose to travel abroad, when borders reopen. DirectAsia’s travel insurance coverage comes with various plan limits which includes medical expenses that will be covered up to the limit, if you become ill during your trip. If you’d like to know more, get in touch with us or get a free quote online.