The trial of CommonPass, a new Covid-19 ‘health passport’, on a flight from Heathrow to New York today was hailed “a success”
Passengers on the United Airlines flight to Newark took a Covid-19 test up to 72 hours before departure and logged the results on a CommonPass app on their phones.
The app generates a QR code which was then scanned by airline and border staff at Heathrow and on arrival at Newark.
The organisers hailed the trail as confirmation passengers could share their Covid-19 test status across borders using a trust framework.
US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) observed the trials of the CommonPass Digital Health Pass and Global Common Trust Framework.
It is hoped the creation of a standard test-result format and certification system will hasten cross-border coordination on testing.
CommonPass was developed by Swiss-based, non-profit organisation the Commons Project and is backed by the World Economic Forum (WEF).
The first trial took place earlier this month on a Cathay Pacific flight between Hong Kong and Singapore.
Dr Bradley Perkins, chief medical officer of the Commons Project, said: “Without the ability to trust Covid-19 tests across international borders, many countries will feel compelled to retain full travel bans and mandatory quarantines for as long as the pandemic persists.
“[But] with trusted individual health data, countries can implement more nuanced health screening requirements for entry.”
World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) president and chief executive Gloria Guevera said: “We are encouraged by the successful trial of CommonPass.
“CommonPass, along with a standardised international testing protocol, is key to reviving the ailing travel and tourism sector.
“We hope that this and others pilots will prove successful so this incredibly important sector can recover swiftly.”
Paul Meyer, the Commons Project chief executive , said: “Following these successful trials, we begin the rollout of CommonPass with more of the world’s largest airlines.
“In November and December we will launch routes across Asia, Africa, the Americas, Europe and the Middle East.”
Sandy Morris, equity analyst at investment bank Jefferies, noted “neither Covid testing or vaccines are a silver bullet”, but said: “The combination of rapid testing, vaccines and the CommonPass digital health pass could offer a way forward.”
Steve Morrissey, United Airlines regulatory and policy vice president, added: “Trials with solutions like CommonPass are critical to demonstrate the potential for alternatives to blanket quarantine measures or travel restrictions.
“We continue looking for opportunities to facilitate these programmes and re-open critical routes, such as those between the US and UK.”
Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye, said: “It is vital that the benefits of aviation take off again.
“We look forward to reviewing the findings from today’s pilot, using the learnings to support the recovery of an industry that provides so many jobs and economic opportunities globally.”
US Travel Association president and chief executive Roger Dow said: “The US and global economies simply cannot afford to wait for a widely distributed Covid vaccine for international travel to resume, so innovative technologies and the embrace of best health practices need to provide the way forward.
“A rapid and secure means of verifying travellers’ Covid status is an important component of that, so we’re excited about the advancement of CommonPass.
“Developing processes to quickly approve and implement these kinds of beneficial technologies will be particularly vital, so we are grateful to the CDC and Customs and Border Protection for observing these trials.
“System-wide flexibility to safely improve the overall travel process can help navigate out of the crippling economic fallout of Covid-related travel restrictions and quarantine requirements, and can hopefully pay further dividends for more seamless and convenient travel even once the pandemic has subsided.”
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