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Vaccine passports ‘essential’ to resume international travel | Flights

Vaccine passports should become essential travel documents in order to restart international tourism.

This recommendation comes from the Global Tourism Crisis Committee, which met in Madrid this week to discuss measures to ensure the safe resumption of international travel. International health and travel agencies have called for intensified coordination of a unified digital certificate system, as well as harmonized testing protocols.

The meeting, organized by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), took place against the background of high cases of coronavirus infection and new strains of the virus that led to the spread of the virus. The UK is closing all travel lanesAnd the It requires all arrivals to the UK to be quarantined And a A total ban on arrivals from South America and Portugal.

“The introduction of vaccines is a step in the right direction, but resumption of tourism cannot wait. Vaccines should be part of a broader coordinated approach that includes certificates and permits for safe travel across borders,” said Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization, Zurab Polokashvili.

Dr Richard Dawood, a travel medicine specialist at Fleet Street Clinic in London, said proof of vaccination for travel is inevitable. ‘It wouldn’t really be our choice – [vaccine passports] De facto requirement by individual states to prove immunity. “

He said that the current International Health Regulations, for example the requirement to obtain a yellow fever certificate to enter certain countries, meant that the framework for the global approach was already in place. “The work has been smoothed.” The problem will be about how to implement a safe system. “Right now people in the UK are given very little paper once they have been vaccinated. It is not entirely safe. There has to be some fair consideration at some point for how vaccination records are kept without burdening the NHS. [For health passports to work] We need a way to certify vaccines. “

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Some travel companies have already made vaccinations mandatory for travel. Saga requires passengers for its cruises Have two doses of the vaccine at least 14 days before departure. In November, Qantas chief Alan Joyce told Australian Nine Network Passengers must show that they have been vaccinated before boarding the plane.

But some experts suggest Multiple obstacles to health passports, Including having different vaccines with different levels of effectiveness, how long immunity lasts and whether people who have been vaccinated are still able to spread the virus to others. And not all travel agencies support the idea of ​​vaccine certificates.

The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) described it as discriminatory. “We are in a very early stage of launching a vaccine. If you make vaccines mandatory, that means an overwhelming number of people will not be able to fly, even if they are Covid-free.” It is much better to have a test and launch plan where they are, ”said a WTTC spokesperson. Passengers take a test before traveling to prove they are free of COVID. ”

He added that the lack of international coordination on Covid-safety is a major obstacle to resuming travel and boosting consumer confidence. “There is a crazy prelude to rules and regulations that most people find so difficult to navigate that they undermine the will to travel.”

Mixed messages from the UK government are frustrating travel companies, too. Derek Moore of the Association of Independent Tour Operators said the government “is shooting violently in all directions, leaving behind a carnage.”

“Nowadays, the vaccination is done well and appears to be very successful. Our clients seem to understand better than the ministers; our clients (over 50 years old) know that they will soon be vaccinated for self-protection.”

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Moore said comments made earlier this week by Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Secretary of State Dominic Raab, And he warned against rushing to book holidays abroad this summer, Was “unnecessarily scaring people and delaying them from detention.”

Some Travel companies have reported a strong interest in traveling abroadDespite tightening border controls and warnings of ministers. But Moore noted that this “increase” in bookings was the result of no reservations. “There are still a lot of people who won’t book. Comments from ministers like Priti Patel saying” It’s too early to speculate about travel restrictions are not helping. “

Last year was the worst year on record for tourism. The World Trade Organization predicts that the number of international tourist arrivals for 2020 will fall by 70-75% or less by $ 1 billion, resulting in an economic loss of $ 2 trillion in global GDP.