Could an immunity passport be the ‘new norm’ for travel?

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The travel industry has been decimated by the restrictions that the Coronavirus has unleashed. Many countries have completely shut their borders and international flight travel has been severely reduced.

Qantas Airlines CEO, Alan Joyce recently announced that the airline is looking at implementing regulations to only accept travelers who have been vaccinated. ‘I think that’s going to be a common thing talking to my colleagues in other airlines around the globe,’ he said.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has suggested that the potential use of “e-vaccination certificates” could reopen the way to international air travel as countries around the world make preparations to begin vaccination programs. Although the use of immunity passports to certify that people have been vaccinated against coronavirus have been suggested to get people traveling again by seeking to instill faith in travelers worried about contracting the virus and the inconvenient restrictions of quarantines there are concerns regarding the implementation of such measures.

University of Exeter Law School’s, Dr Ana Beduschi has said that; ‘Digital health passports may contribute to the long-term management of the COVID-19 pandemic, but their introduction poses essential questions for the protection of data privacy and human rights.’

They build on sensitive personal health information to create a new distinction between individuals based on their health status, which can be used to determine the degree of freedoms and rights individuals may enjoy.. Given that digital health passports contain sensitive personal information, domestic laws and policies should carefully consider the conditions, storage and uses of the data by private sector providers.’

The balancing of civil liberties with collecting big data is not a new concept. What is crucial is how governments strike a balance between freedom and security. Many industries are reliant on the return of traveling and for them an additional health pass could seem like a beacon of hope to keep them viable. For consumers it could be viewed as a way to make travel accessible and safer or another breach of privacy in an ever increasing surveillant world.

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