COVID Passports – that is proof of vaccination against the Coronavirus – are likely to be the keys to the reopening of international borders in Australia and the boost that the accommodation industry has been eagerly awaiting for more than a year.
It may also be the only thing that allows Australians to travel internationally.
The Federal Government’s “Australian COVID-19 Vaccination Policy” clearly states that “while the Australian Government strongly supports immunisation and will run a strong campaign to encourage vaccination, it is not mandatory and individuals may choose not to vaccinate …”
But it goes on to declare:
There may however, be circumstances where the Australian Government and other governments may introduce border entry or re-entry requirements that are conditional on proof of vaccination.”
Qantas is trialling two digital apps to check passengers’ medical history as the airline prepares to resume international travel.
Virgin CEO Jayne Hrdlicka has backed her Qantas counterpart Alan Joyce, who says he still hopes overseas flights will be back by October despite the sluggish vaccine rollout in Australia.
“I agree with him it is time to get the borders back open,” Ms Hrdlicka told the Channel 9 program Today.
We have to learn how to live with COVID, and we have to get our borders open and we have to join the global economy as it restarts.”
However, Ms Hrdlicka said Virgin was currently focused on expanding its domestic operations, and would not be running flights to New Zealand until September.
“We are hoping by mid-June we get back to 80 percent pre-pandemic levels and we are gunning to get back to 100 percent by the end of the year,” Ms Hrdlicka told the program.
Both Tourism Accommodation Australia and the Accommodation Association are backing a return to international travel to Australia as the key to restoring business to the devasted CBD hotel trade, especially in Sydney and Melbourne, the country’s two major international gateways.
Qantas has been testing the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Travel Pass and CommonPass apps.
They are essentially digitalised medical records, so airlines can see if people have returned negative COVID results and have been vaccinated.
The IATA and CommonPass apps provide passengers with a “COVID-19 health status” for airline staff to view.
A Qantas spokesperson told 7NEWS.com.au the passes were completely optional for passengers while still in their trial stage.
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said the company was trialling the apps to get “ready” for international travel.
So, we’re getting ourselves ready and hundreds of airlines are getting themselves ready on these passes and these technologies, so that when the borders open up and we have the ability to know who’s been vaccinated, who’s been tested and whatever requirements the governments put into place, then we can implement from that date,” he said.
However, controversial Independent MP Craig Kelly says he will introduce a bill to ban coronavirus vaccine passports in Australia “as soon as parliament recommences”.
A global push for the vaccine passports is gaining momentum, in a bid to reopen borders and restart the tourism industry – but many object to the idea.
Mr Kelly told Sky News host Alan Jones: “There are now 12 US states that have introduced legislation to ban those vaccine passports.”
The World Health Organisation also says people should not be required to prove they have been vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to travel overseas, warning that vaccine passports would isolate poorer countries.
Dr Mike Ryan, who leads WHO’s public health emergencies program, said it was vital to record that a person had been vaccinated, but said using that information to allow or prohibit a person from taking part in regular life raised complex, ethical issues.
More than 70 British politicians have signalled their opposition to the introduction of the vaccine passports that the UK government is considering as it starts lifting COVID-19 lockdown restrictions.
The government is reviewing the idea of asking people to show proof of a COVID-19 vaccination to access crowded spaces such as pubs or sports events, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson having already said that a certificate is likely to be needed for international travel.
Three in five adults in the UK have already been vaccinated.