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OECD agrees blueprint for travel during Covid

The OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Developement) has agreed a blueprint to promote safe international travel during Covid.

At a meeting in Paris, ministers from OECD nations endorsed a safe travel blueprint as well as a temporary international cross-sectoral forum for knowledge sharing.

The forum will allow governments and stakeholders to share information in real time on plans and approaches facilitating travel.

The blueprint, initiated by Spain, promotes greater certainty, safety and security in travel as reopening takes place.

It will be used by countries on a voluntary basis and consists of a traffic-light system to classify risks; guidance on how vaccination should be certified for travel to those countries that decide to take vaccination status into account; protocols for testing travellers in different circumstances; and principles to be followed in generating electronic certificates for travel that ensure privacy protection and security and promote interoperability among systems.

The OECD, which has 38 member countries, noted that international air passenger transport dropped by about 75% in 2020, and international tourism by about 80%.

For the average OECD country, pre-pandemic, international tourism contributed 4.4% of GDP, 6.9% of employment, and 21.5% of service exports, but this was much higher for some countries, such as Greece, Iceland, Mexico, Portugal and Spain.

“The halt in international travel and tourism is having a dramatic knock-on impact on the entire, interlinked global economy,” the group said in a statement.

Mexican secretary-general Angel Gurría said: “The OECD is in a unique position to help countries coordinate international action in the context of reopening global travel.

“This initiative will help reduce uncertainty and complexity and enable countries to prepare more effectively for a return to safe international travel and tourism.”

The OECD says that, without an international framework for travel policies, an inconsistent “patchwork of national and regional rules” will “continue to be confusing and costly for travellers and transport and tourism companies, discouraging travel due to the uncertainty and complexity”.

It also warned could of an “increase in the incidence of use of fraudulent certificates and so undermine the ability of authorities to mitigate public health risks”.

The blueprint supports existing international initiatives, such as the European Union’s proposed Digital COVID-19 Certificate, by “taking a principles-based approach to ensuring that they are compatible with each other, and adopted in a consistent way across a range of countries”.

Countries that use the OECD Blueprint may do so unilaterally or in bilateral or multilateral agreements, or through mechanisms provided in other bodies, such as, in particular the ICAO Public Health Corridor arrangement.

The World Travel & Tourism Council welcomed the OECD Blueprint, having contributed to tis development.

Senior Vice President Virginia Messina said: “We welcome the OECD initiative to safely restart international travel under their proposed framework, which give countries the flexibility to lower or raise their health protection measures while coordinating their responses within the international community.

“We also want to congratulate the Spanish for taking the lead to spearhead this initiative which provides a firm foundation for future global consistency and will be key in the fight against the pandemic and safely reviving international travel.

“We hope to see many member states swiftly adopt this less restrictive blueprint model proposed by the OECD which could save the global travel and tourism sector and provide a vital boost to the world’s economic recovery.”

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