Vaccine passports on trial by Air New Zealand could enable air travel

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Hopes are rising that some air travel in and out of Australia could be restored within months, as the first coronavirus vaccinations are administered across the country.

University of South Australia epidemiologist Adrian Esterman told The Age he expected vaccine passports would enable travel.

“If you’ve got a vaccine passport and you’re coming from a low-risk country, then you’ll probably be deemed absolutely safe and there’ll be no restriction whatsoever,” Professor Esterman said.

“But if you’re coming from a high-risk country, which has got these new (COVID-19) variants … even though you’ve been vaccinated, there might be some need to isolate for a few days.”

In April, Air New Zealand intends to ask passengers to use a digital health pass on flights to Australia, effectively providing a trial run of a ‘vaccine passport’ system that might operate post-pandemic.

The federal government plans to complete the vaccination rollout to all adult Australians who wish to have the jab by October. But NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian told ABC radio her state could be vaccinated against COVID-19 sooner.

“We’re hopeful that if some of the supplies that we hadn’t anticipated are coming in sooner than expected, it could be within months that large cohorts of the public are invited to have the vaccine.”

Vaccination of hotel quarantine workers began on Monday, and at Melbourne Airport an unused departure lounge was converted into a vaccination clinic serving hundreds of airline flight crew, customs workers, cargo handlers and other airport workers.

Read more: Top four COVID travel trends

ABC News reports that the Air New Zealand trial of the Travel Pass app, developed by the International Air Transport Association, will allow travellers to create a ‘digital health wallet’ linked to their passport.

“Once they have been tested or vaccinated, the lab can securely send that information to the app, which is then cross-checked against the travel requirements for the country they hoped to visit.”

Air New Zealand chief digital officer Jennifer Sepull described the app as a “digital health certificate that can be easily and securely shared with airlines”.

Read more: Booking travel post-COVID

“Reassuring customers that travel is, in fact, safe is one of our priorities. By using the app, customers can have confidence that everyone onboard meets the same government health requirements they do,” she told ABC News.

“By having a place to store all your health credentials digitally in one place, it will not only speed up the check-in process but unlock the potential for contactless travel.”

The Age reports that travel industry leaders expect COVID-19 immunisation will become mandatory for international flights. In November, Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said it would be a requirement to fly on his airline. Incoming travellers to Australia currently must prove they tested negative to COVID-19 within 72 hours of their departure.

Singapore Airlines, Emirates, Etihad, Qatar Airways and British Airways plan to use the IATA travel pass. All people travelling to Australia from overseas, apart from Kiwis, currently face a mandatory 14-day quarantine.

Read more: Getting ready to travel post-COVID

Burnet Institute director Brendan Crabb says travel bubbles between other low-risk “green” countries might “be quite common in the second half of the year”.

It is expected restrictions will remain if vaccines do not stop transmission of the disease as much as expected or if new, more resistant variants emerge.

Ben Cowie, senior medical adviser for the COVID-19 vaccination program, is hailing the success of vaccination efforts in Israel where more than 49 per cent of people have received at least one dose of the Pfizer vaccine. Israel’s health ministry believes the risk of illness from the virus had dropped 95.8 per cent among people who have had two doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

“So, the early evidence (from Israel) … is firstly that the actual rates of infection in those vaccinated are going down,” Professor Cowie said.

“It protects against infection, it certainly protects against serious infection, and furthermore we’re seeing the first evidence that even among those infected, it reduces its ability to spread to others.”

Vaccinated Israelis can use a government app known as “green badge”, which allows them access to gyms, movie theatres and swimming pools, which non-vaccinated citizens cannot enter.

When do you expect to travel overseas again? Do you think the vaccination passport system will work?

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Written by Will Brodie


Total Comments: 15
  1. 0

    Can’t wait, will travel as soon as it’s deemed safe by the experts, happy to ignore the social media experts

  2. 3

    Can’t wait. I want to finish my shift to the Philippines. My house is there along with my boxes of stuff and my girlfriend. I think I can leave here but not able to enter Philippines. Hope the vaccine will help.

  3. 2

    I will travel as soon as it’s safe though perhaps only within Australia or to NZ first.

    • 0

      Do you really think NZ will allow Australian tourists. Currently all have to isolate for 14 days at one of NZ hotel at own expense. A great time if you are on a 17 day trip to see the family. Isolate for 14 days and have a great time for 3 days. No thanks. You can go from Melb/Syd how ever contact with Air NZ, no chance of Perth Auckland flights.
      NZ PM has a bee in her bonnet regarding the return of a NZ born who had the Australian Passport cancelled due to joining ISIS, born in NZ, has to return to NZ. Seems to think should go to Australia. The lady in question knew the Australian Government stance on her actions.

    • 1

      I agree bobm. Its time that NZ reciprocates the no quarantine arrangements with Australia. Most of Australia has had fewer cases of COVID-19 than NZ in the last month or so. Not that I have any plans to travel there, it just seems unfair that it is all one way traffic.

    • 0

      who cares, never wanted to go to NZ anyway

  4. 3

    Bags packed gathering dust ready to go asap

    • 0

      Looks like pride comes before a fall for the PM of NZ. QLD, NSW and Vic now require isolation for those who fly from NZ. WA not in the loop as Air NZ do not fly to WA.
      Wife want s to to Queenstown NZ. Have been to the Rockies in Canada a few times why would you bother with Queenstown???????

  5. 1

    I am still hoping to go to the World Expo in Dubai in January next year. Was going last month but they postponed Expo for a year due to Covid. At my age and with mobility problems etc, I figure this will be my last chance to see a big Expo on this scale. It is going to be unbelievable. But the site is 10 times as big as the Brisbane Expo was, so it is going to be a challenge. Can’t wait to get on the plane. I’m missing the smell of aviation turbine fuel!

    • 0

      Hope it works out for you, many of us are getting on in years, without being morbid we don’t know how much time we have left, and there is so much to see both here and overseas.

  6. 0

    Buy Australian

  7. 1

    Its going to be at least another year and may be more before there is anything resembling pre-covid-19 travel. People need to understand that vaccination does not make you immune from contracting the disease – and just consider the SA strain that the current vaccines do not protect the vaccinated from. Whilst there are still locations round the world with high levels of the virus, it would be foolish in the extreme to open borders to all and sundry, and even to returning Australians.

    And we need better consistency even within Australia concerning State Borders. Whilst the trigger happy Premieres of some states continue to slam shut their borders at whim, there are no guarantees that even you if make it out, that you will get back in!

  8. 2

    I’m not keen on getting the vaccine in order to travel again. Rather wait and see as at the moment I can’t see any good reason to get vaccinated. There are and will be even more new variants and it will be a never ending campaign of fear for big pharma to profit from. There are no guarantees the vaccines will work, and the manufacturers don’t accept any liabilities if things go wrong – and they do! With the control of media nowadays we wouldn’t even hear about it. My health is more important to me.

  9. 2

    For those anxious to get away & already have bags packed Greg hunt said yesterday even though people have a vaccine passport for Covid they will still be required to quarantine (hotel arrest) for 14 days at own expense when arriving back in Australia & the government at this stage has no date set for reviewing that.
    Apart from returning to Australia you still can’t leave the country without permission any way so until that is lifted might as well unpack for a while.



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