A visitor uses CovPass, Germany's new vaccination passport smartphone app, to scan a QR code after being inoculated at a COVID-19 vaccination center in the Erika-Hess ice rink stadium in Berlin, Germany, on Friday, June 11, 2021. Image Credit: Bloomberg

Dubai: With the COVID-19 pandemic, an industry affected almost immediately, and continuously since was travel and tourism. As several countries fight the COVID-19 waves with steadily increasing vaccination rates, governments and airlines deem that health ‘passports’ could be the way forward to boost trade and tourism.

A health passport or a travel ‘pass’ is designed to contain the traveller’s health data – in particular his/her COVID-19 health data which could include past rapid-PCR test results, details of COVID-19 recovery, details of vaccinations and/or current vaccination status. A ‘vaccine passport’, however, is limited to people who have been fully vaccinated and only stores vaccination information.

Which ones are in operation now?

IATA Travel Pass – Global airlines

International Air Transport Association (IATA) has introduced a travel pass which can used if travelling on participating airlines. The IATA Travel Pass is a mobile app that helps travellers store and manage their verified certifications for COVID-19 tests.

IATA Director-General Willie Walsh said Gulf airlines would be going live with IATA’s Travel Pass in the next few weeks.

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The app has four elements – health requirements based on travel destination, testing centre registry at arrival or departure locations, ability to allow authorised labs to send test results via the app and a complete digital passport that allows storage and sharing of relevant data.

IATA Travel Pass, is globally applicable, if the airline you travel on is one that is using the pass, which is on trial basis as of now.

IATA travel pass
IATA travel pass screen (sample) Image Credit: Media kit/IATA International Air Transport Association

Emirates said this week that it was scaling up its IATA Travel Pass capabilities on its flights to Barcelona, Moscow, Istanbul, New York JFK, Madrid and from London Heathrow with plans to scale up across all of its flights by July, in addition to offering customers travelling from Dubai paperless verification of COVID-19 related medical records through its partnership with the Dubai Health Authority.

As for Etihad, you can use the IATA Travel Pass app on routes departing from Abu Dhabi to North America up to 15 June 2021. In addition to this, Etihad is offering one free PCR test at designated labs in case the passenger participates in the trial of the IATA travel pass. This is valid for travel until June 30, the airline said on its website.

EUDCC – European Union

On Wednesday, the European Union [EU] approved the use a new travel certificate that will allow people to move between European countries without having to quarantine or undergo extra coronavirus tests. The certificate, previously called the Digital Green Certificate, is now known as the EU Digital COVID Certificate (EUDCC).

Greece led the drive to have the certificate, which will have both paper and digital forms. It is hoped that this pass will help revive summer travel and boost Europe’s travel industry.

Starting July 1, for 12 months, all EU countries must recognize the certificate. They will be issued free of charge and certify that a person has either been fully vaccinated against the virus, has recently tested negative or has recovered from the disease. The rules will not be heavily enforced for 6 weeks to allow countries to prepare.

Infographic: EU’s digital Covid pass goes live
Image Credit: Seyyed Llata/Gulf News | Graphic News

Several EU countries have already begun using the system, including Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Greece and Poland. The passes will be issued by individual nations, not from a centralized European system.

The passes will reportedly contain a QR code with advanced security features. Personal data will not be shared with other countries.

Excelsior Pass – New York

New York officials introduced the Excelsior Pass app as the country's first government-issued vaccine passport. Holders would get a QR code that would not only verify their vaccination status but could also include other personal details like proof of age, driver's license and other health records.

The currents scope is limited, as it primarily holds vaccine information and recent COVID-19 test information for people who had vaccines or tests in New York state, though New Yorkers can ask their doctors to add out of state vaccinations to the registry.

Common Pass – The Common Project and World Economic Forum

The Common Pass is also an app-based system which promises the ability to store, verify data, and share COVID-19 related entry requirements without revealing personal health information. As of now, the app requires an invitation code to use in limited destinations.

In addition to serving as a platform to share the details of vaccinations and/or tests, the app also verifies that source of the test results come from a verified source and that those results satisfy the health requirements of the destination. If the requirements are met, the app gives the travelers a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ certificate that can be used to enter without revealing any private health data.

The pass is operated by The Common Project, and is backed by the World Economic Forum but is not under any government. The pass is being used in a few countries including the UK, Hong Kong, Germany and the United States of America. Several airlines also trialed the pass, including Qantas, Lufthansa, Swiss Air Lines etc.

AOK Pass – International Chamber of Commerce (ICC)

Supported by International SOS and SGS Group, the AOK Pass by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) is yet another digital tool created to allow for easy sharing of health data to boost travel and trade.

The app is used for sharing COVID test results by accredited labs, in the form of a digital pass for the traveler. The pass can be presented to authorities and the data can be scanned via a QR code. The pass does not collect or store additional health information.

AOK Pass
AOK Pass by ICC: The pass can be presented to authorities and the data can be scanned via a QR code. Image Credit: Media library/

AOK Pass, the ICC says, cab used for travel, on trade routes and for events. The ICC also claims that the app is scalable to become a vaccine passport if necessary.

CovPass – Germany

The CovPass initiative by Germany, launched on Friday, is a vaccine passport or certificate which is available for free to people who are fully vaccinated. The pass will be issued starting June 14 (Monday), local media reports said.

The list of centres and pharmacies allowed to issue the pass haven’t been listed yet but will be documented on a website dedicated for this. The certificate will store vaccination details, date, name and date of birth of the person. The pass will, in the future, be able to store COVID-19 recovery details and other relevant results.

The vaccination passport should be available to everyone in Germany who is fully vaccinated by the end of this month, Health Minister Jens Spahn said.

“The goal is that this certificate can also be used in Helsinki, Amsterdam or Mallorca,'' Spahn told reporters in Berlin. People who have been fully vaccinated will either get a letter with a QR-code they can scan with their phones or they can contact their doctors or pharmacies to retroactively get the digital pass.