A leading border control expert has called for creation of a Covid-19 travel health credential to accelerate entry for travellers who share their medical history.

Tony Smith, chairman of the International Border Management and Technologies Association (IBMATA) and managing director of border security consultancy Fortinus Global, said: “Health is the overriding concern

“Border agents are not experts in the medical field, so there is a need for some sort of travel health credential.

“If we can get the criteria right, we can clear a significantly greater number of travellers by segmenting people on flights who meet the criteria.”

Smith, a former director general of the UK Border Force, told a Global Travel & Tourism Resilience Council virtual summit: “This is a watershed moment for border agencies.”

He criticised governments’ “piecemeal approach to the Covid epidemic” to date and called for “a more collaborative response and more collaboration with the travel industry, airports and airlines to agree a framework of international standards.”

Smith said: “We need advice from health authorities that is viable and acceptable to move travellers between countries. We desperately need a set of standards.”

He acknowledged adding medical data to the passenger data already shared between countries and agencies would be challenging.

Smith told the summit: “This is enormously difficult. Different countries have a different view. [But] we have always asked for a passport and checked against a database.

“We may need to ask where you have been and ask you to share some of your medical history, and if some [travellers] are not prepared to share that we have to separate them.”

He warned: “We are falling into a segmentation of traffic to be able to risk assess you.”

Speaking later in the summit, specialist in travel security and risk insurance Robin Ingle – chief executive of Ingle International – said: “We need to ensure people understand how to cross borders, board an airline and stay in a hotel.

“Not every country will agree on border requirements. We need to help customers with the complexity – integrating that into a useable format so travellers know what to do.”

Greg Land, global industry leader for hospitality and travel at IBM, agreed. He said: “We have to look at how health care platforms and travel platforms can be integrated and information shared across networks.”

Duncan Alexander, digital solutions director at DXC Technologies, added: “We’re going to have to set up a new standard with advance passenger information and with tests that can turnaround in 30-40 minutes.

“If protocols are the same, we can start to create trust. We need a single place for authoritative information.”

Brett Tollman, chief executive of the Travel Corporation, told the summit: “We’re eager to return. I hope the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) can bring some sense to what comes next.

“There is not going be a vaccine any time soon. In the meantime, what do we do? As we come out lockdown, we want to do it in a responsible way.”