Covid-19 travel passes have become an international sticking point, as countries and citizens continue to face travel restrictions unless they provide proof of vaccination or a negative test.
Parts of the world, including North America and the European Union, have begun to relax restrictions as many of their populations have been vaccinated. This allows businesses to introduce Covid-19 passes, blocking citizens and travellers from entering unless they can show proof of vaccination.
As countries like South Africa lag on their vaccine roll-out, they risk being left behind as they cannot introduce similar systems.
Dr Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in the US, told Bhekisisa that more businesses are likely to require a pass to enter an establishment or even work at a business going forward.
While this is a possibility in the US – which has a high proportion of its population vaccinated – Fauci said that until there is vaccine equity, it will be challenging to implement a pass on an international level.
“There are (vaccine passport) requirements internationally – for instance, there are some African countries that I have visited where you can’t get into the country unless you have a yellow fever certificate,” he said.
“But the yellow fever vaccine is available to everybody throughout the world, so you’re not discriminating against some people. I think you have to have equity before you do that (implement Covid vaccine passports) at an international level.”
IATA travel pass on the cards for South Africa
Transport minister Fikile Mbalula has said that his department is working with businesses to ensure that South Africa successfully reopens for international travel.
Presenting his departmental budget speech at the end of May, Mbalula said that South Africa must ensure that it joins the growing number of countries that accepts the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) mobile travel pass.
The travel pass is a mobile app that helps travellers store and manage their verified certifications for Covid-19 tests or vaccines.
It is more secure and efficient than current paper processes used to manage health requirements, IATA said. This is important given the potentially enormous scale of testing or vaccine verifications that must be securely managed.
IATA said it aims to introduce further changes, including enabling QR code scanning by immigration officers.
A mapping tool developed by travel website Skyscanner shows that as of 16 August, South Africa has 86 ‘major restrictions’ from other countries in place.
These countries have suspended travel, may be closed to entry, or entry may only be possible if you are a citizen/meet strict entrance requirements.
By comparison, there are currently 27 moderate restrictions on South Africa, where travel is possible, but only if travellers meet certain entry requirements, including taking Covid-19 tests.