‘Vaccine Passport’ and its effect on international tourism(one)

Omicron will obstruct all the gains made towards tourism recovery…who bears the blame?
Philip GEBU

International tourism is the driving force behind. Tourism. as highlighted last week, the UNWTO barometer early this year indicated that all international arrivals have falling by 80%. This situation has been attributed to the COVID-19 situation.

With summer around beginning soon, many European countries have began planning towards the summer. Because we live in the tropical zone, we normally do not worry so much about summer holidays as it is in the West.

Most of Europe was under lockdown last year and with some light at the end of the tunnel following the introduction of the COVID Vaccines, the daily mail reports that Britons are preparing for the ‘longest summer ever’ as lockdown-weary holidaymakers rush to go abroad. Autumn bookings for international trips have seen an 80 per cent surge in interest compared to 2019 – as tour operators, hotels and airlines all report increased queries about later holidays.

With these great excitements comes some very important things too know as a potential traveler or as a tour operator. The EU is closing in on a deal with the US on Covid passports, with officials also saying they are open to a similar policy with the UK.

Following Brexit, the UK government spokesman said Britain was also ready to open talks with the EU shortly. The spokesman said: ‘Ensuring free and open travel with our European partners is vitally important which is why we will be engaging the European commission on reopening travel routes from the UK shortly.’

Vaccine Passports

It has been revealed by the UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps will hold talks with G7 counterparts at the Cornwall summit between June 11 and 13 with a view to securing a free travel agreement to popular destinations.

Mr Shapps will argue that they should agree international standards for vaccinated travellers heading to ‘green list’ nations who show digital proof of vaccination, a negative test or proof of immunity at passport control. There would also be talks on bilateral ‘travel corridors’ to the US, France, Italy, Germany and other nations for passengers with a covid passport, according to the Daily Telegraph.

There are talks of categorizing returning travellers under the traffic light system of red, amber and green for all countries and individual islands. When the traffic light system is launched the current ban on non-essential travel will be removed. Countries and islands will be assigned colours based on a range of Covid-19 health metrics, including vaccination numbers and infection rates. Variants and the ability of the country to identify variants will also be considered.

The different traffic light colours will detail the risk in each region, but also the tests and quarantine periods required. For example, if the cases rise in Cape Coast but not Accra, these areas will be separated and assigned colours accordingly. Travellers returning from green list regions will need to take a pre-departure test and a PCR test on or before day two of their return, but there is no requirement to quarantine.

Arrivals from amber countries will need to quarantine at home for ten days, in addition to tests, while arrivals from red countries must quarantine for ten days in government managed hotel quarantine. To reduce the risk of disruption the plan is to move countries between red, amber and green monthly, instead of weekly like last year and is a ‘Green Watchlist will be introduced’. It says this will help identify the countries at risk of moving from green to amber, although there are no details on how it will work. If you’re in a country when it is added to the red list, you may need to pay for a flight to get home before the change takes place (with airfares likely to be very high) or return as normal and pay for hotel quarantine. You’ll also need to factor in the cost of tests, which will be required even for travel to and from green list countries.
With the EU having set out plans for a health passport called the Digital Green Certificate, or Green Pass, it therefore means these certificates will provide evidence that a traveller has been vaccinated or recovered from Covid-19, or that they have tested negative for Covid. The certificate should be accepted for entry into all EU countries. The proposal is focused on EU nationals, and those residing and working in the EU, but does say those ‘staying in the EU who hold a Digital Green Certificate’ should also be exempt from freedom of movement restrictions. That may mean travellers across Europe can use the Green Pass to travel to and take holidays in the EU. The EU has said it wants to introduce the pass this summer. It has not set a date.

How does the Digital Green Certificate or Green Pass work?

It is essentially a health passport. The scheme, which the EU has proposed is adopted by all member states, will allow travellers to enter countries if they have been vaccinated, recovered from Covid-19 or recently tested negative for the virus. It says the Green Pass can be issued digitally or in paper form, with each version including a QR code that border control and airlines would then use to check the certification.

Who issues the Digital Green Certificate?

It’ s not clear. The EU has said ‘national authorities are in charge of issuing the certificate. It could, for example, be issued by hospitals, test centres, health authorities.’ That means it is likely to vary from country to country The European Commission will build a gateway through which certificates across the EU can be checked, although it suggests it won’t hold data centrally.

When will the scheme be introduced?

The Green Pass is a proposal at the moment, and has to be approved by member states. The EU has suggested that member states begin planning for its introduction immediately, with a rollout penciled in for ‘summer’.

Can every travellers and holidaymakers use the Digital Green Certificate?

It’s not clear. The scheme is primarily aimed at EU citizens and those residing and living in the bloc. However, it does say that those ‘legally staying’ in the EU should also be able to access the scheme. That would suggest that it could be used for non-essential travel and holiday.

 That may take some time.

With reports of increasing cases of covid-19 from arriving travellers at the KIA, the aforementioned proposal must be seen as a positive step in restarting tourism. The cynics may argue that this may be a way of violating the freedom of those not willing to take the vaccine. The bigger challenge is the over effect on a region one finds himself or herself and the category placed on that region. Ghana has so far done well and the earlier the reported cases at the KIA are dealt with the better it will be for the image of the country.

The writer  is a Tourism Lecturer. He is the C.E.O of FoReal Destinations Ltd, a Tourism Destinations Management and Marketing Company based in Ghana and with partners in many other countries. Please contact Philip with your comments and suggestions. Write to [email protected] / [email protected]. Visit our website at www.forealdestinations.com or call or WhatsApp +233(0)244295901/0264295901.Visist our social media sites Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: FoReal Destinations.

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