Prime Minister Scott Morrison says international travel is “very possible” once the vaccine is rolled out across Australia, but there is “a fair bit of work to still go there”.
Speaking to the press at Sydney’s Royal Prince Alfred Hospital last week, Australia’s PM said we must “wait for the evidence” before international borders are able to open up again.
“It’s not just Australia that’s getting vaccinated here. It’s the rest of the world,” he said.
“There are big jobs to be done there. But look, I think it is a reasonable expectation that as time goes on, as the vaccination rolls out across the world and here in Australia, you should rightly expect that things will change in how we manage the virus.”
Morrison said the government was still working with international partners, the International Civil Aviation Organization and others on the development of a ‘vaccine passport’.
“What we want is a proper accreditation process which can load up into that system,” he said.
“Now, we obviously have very good systems here and we’ve worked hard on them. We know what our systems can do and we can be confident about those.
“It’s about getting to a level of confidence across many jurisdictions that would enable that outcome.
“So, once I think we get a greater understanding of everybody’s systems, that can give the airlines in particular, because they are the gatekeepers here largely on this, they can have the confidence about what’s being loaded up, who’s had a vaccine, what vaccine have they had, who approved that, what’s the role of the WHO (World Health Organization).
“So, there’s a fair bit of work to still go there.”
Several airlines including Qantas, Air New Zealand and Copa Airlines have signed up to trial the International Air Transport Association (IATA) digital travel pass.
The pass is a mobile app designed to help passengers manage their travel in line with government requirements for COVID-19 testing or vaccination information.
Travel and tourism analyst at GlobalData Ralph Hollister said that while IATA’s Travel Pass is not the “golden ticket to an instant recovery”, it will no doubt help.
“Due to this unprecedented drop in demand, which has now continued into the start of 2021, ongoing testing, tracing and vaccinations rollouts will need to be continued alongside the implementation of the digital COVID Travel Pass in order to ensure a strong and sustained recovery,” he said.
Hollister said international travel was a possibility this summer, with the success of the vaccine rollout potentially allowing for short-haul travel to resume between many economically developed nations.
“However, low traveller confidence may still stop many from travelling. [A] GlobalData survey found that 52 per cent of global respondents are either ‘quite’ or ‘extremely’ concerned regarding restrictions on international travel,” he said.
“IATA’s Travel Pass should, therefore, help to ease these ongoing apprehensions. As the app confirms if a passenger has had the appropriate COVID-19 tests or vaccines required to enter a country, this will assure travellers that there will be no sudden surprises when they enter the destination, such as restrictions on movement.”
Adrian Leach, CEO of travel insurance company World Travel Protection, believes the government should introduce a vaccine passport-like scheme sooner rather than later, even if just on a domestic scale.
“It could be a substantial period of time until we reach herd immunity in the community, and even longer until travel corridors begin to appear,” Leach said.
“Until then, it’s highly likely we will continue to experience fluctuating border restrictions and snap lockdowns, as we’ve seen in Victoria. This creates a lot of uncertainty for business travellers as well as the domestic tourism industry.
“For these employees and their employers to have stability, we need some form of documentation that will help airlines and authorities process these individuals quickly and securely.
“A domestic COVID-19 vaccination passport could bring more confidence to both domestic business and leisure travellers. It could also provide peace of mind to all travellers that they are travelling as part of a reliably safe cohort of other immunised travellers.”
Featured image source: Facebook/Scott Morrison