As the world’s travel industry attempts to come back to normality, the World Health Organization (WHO) has spoken against vaccine passports.
On Thursday, the World Health Organization’s Emergency Committee stated that countries should not require vaccination passports for international travel. The intervention comes amid growing controversy around countries blocking unvaccinated travelers from entering as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
The WHO’s independent experts stated vaccinations shouldn’t be the only condition to allow international travel because of the inequality around vaccine distribution. However, as parts of the western world return to normality, many parts of the developing world are witnessing their worst outbreaks.
Southeast Asia — an area that kept COVID-19 cases low during 2020 — is seeing record levels of COVID-19. Vaccination rates in many Southeast Asian countries (many of which rely on tourism) are very low. Access to vaccines is challenging, and many Asian countries haven’t vaccinated 10% of their population.
These nations rely on western or Chinese vaccines because most Southeast Asian nations haven’t created their own vaccines. Therefore, Southeast Asian countries are waiting for western countries to vaccinate their populations before donating vaccines.
In addition, parts of Africa, the Middle East, and South and Central America have low vaccination rates. That leaves many citizens from these nations unable to travel if countries demand vaccine passports for the next 12 months.
The WHO’s body of experts also asserted that vaccine passports deepen inequality and promote unequal freedom of movement. Nevertheless, countries are still introducing vaccine passports as an entry requirement in many parts of the world.
The Current State Of Global Travel
The pandemic has battered the travel industry in the last 18 months. There really isn’t any other way to put it. The United Nations predicted the travel industry would lose $1 trillion. Their report states that around one in ten jobs is reliant on the success of the travel industry.
Furthermore, the initial impact in 2020 cost the travel industry three times more than the Global Economic Crisis of 2009 following the collapse of the Lehman Brothers. Countries such as Thailand, Italy, and Spain — all of which have huge travel industries — have lost massive chunks of their GDP thanks to border closures.
The United States is the world’s worst-hit country from the travel industry’s demise. The country lost $150 billion during 2020 because of border closures, and it remains closed to most of the world, including Europe.
Countries are desperate to reopen and have mostly decided vaccination passports are the only way forward. The European Union launched its COVID-19 digital certificate earlier this month. The scheme allows travelers to enter the Schengen Zone if they have proof of vaccination. Travelers will need to have evidence of full vaccination on a smartphone app.
Nonetheless, the EU still has a traffic light system. The system puts countries in a green zone, orange zone, or red zone. Green zone travelers can enter with zero quarantine, but orange countries may require testing. The EU advises against allowing fully vaccinated travelers to enter the Schengen Zone if they’re coming from a red zone country.
The Future Of Travel
Whether travelers agree or not, it seems like vaccine passports are the only way countries will permit entry anytime soon. Unfortunately, most of the world remains closed, including Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and most of Asia.
Western nations such as Australia — which has completely closed its border since March 2020 — have discussed allowing vaccinated travelers to enter next year. Thailand and Bali are set to reopen gradually over the next 6 months, but on the premise that travelers have received full vaccination.
Travel is almost certain to return to full strength in the next 18 months. But the rules around travel are going to be unclear and controversial.
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Disclaimer: Current travel rules and restrictions can change without notice. The decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. Contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm your nationality’s entry and/or any changes to travel requirements before traveling. Travel Off Path does not endorse traveling against government advisories