It’s been 18 months since COVID knocked our world off kilter – leaving the global aviation, travel and tourism sectors to navigate significant operational challenges, least of all the need for a standardised, digital vaccine passport.
More and more countries are opening up to fully-vaccinated travellers (including South Africans) but the respective regulations and requirements are murky at best, and it can feel like picking your way through a minefield of differing advice, red tape and admin.
The good news is that South Africa’s Minister of Health, Dr Joe Phaahla, has announced that in less than a week, all vaccinated South Africans will be eligible for a digital vaccination certificate, which the department of health says is now ‘under development.
“This much-awaited announcement is fantastic news for the South African travel and tourism industry, as it will help facilitate travel for all vaccinated South Africans and help cut through the red tape and admin when travelling,” says Oz Desai, GM of Corporate Traveller.
Desai warns however that while these passes give the holder the government-issued right to travel across borders, there are still restrictions in place based on both your country of departure and destination.
For example, the EU vaccine passport has been issued to over 27 member nations, allowing seamless travel between EU countries. Although this is perfect for member states, what happens when someone from a country outside the EU tries to enter?
“This is where travel experts are earning their stripes,” says Desai. “Your Travel Consultant should be able to give you the latest information and advice – because as with red lists, border closures and restrictions, the situation around valid, accepted health passes is still fluid.”
The implementation and issue of COVID passports is a complicated process leaving it open to abuse and misuse – as well as criticism and scepticism from many in the industry.
What is clear is that a vaccine passport must:
- Meet the benchmarks for COVID immunity
- Be internationally standardised
- Be verifiable
- Be 100% secure in terms of personal data
- Be affordable
- Be portable
- Meet legal and ethical standards.
Phaahla has assured South Africans that the government has gone through the necessary steps to protect the digital certificate from fraud and that it is in line with the World Health Organisation requirement. “We’re following the standards that have been set globally, he said.
“COVID passports are likely to be non-negotiable in a post-Covid world. Exactly how the world goes about it, is still up in the air,” comments Desai. “Regardless of this, the news that South Africans will soon have access to a digital health certificate is good news all around.”