Governments which imposed tight border controls to control Covid-19 have “been vindicated”, according to senior industry figures in Asia who warned it is “going to take a hell of a long time” to standardise Covid-19 health certificates for travellers.
Subhas Menon, director general of the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA), suggested it is “unrealistic” to call on governments to re-open borders at the current stage of the pandemic.
Menon said: “We have to keep asking governments to consider re-opening, but the reality is the policy of tighter controls has been vindicated.
“It is unrealistic of us to ask governments to re-open borders immediately.”
Mario Hardy, chief executive of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), said: “I agree. It is difficult for organisations like ours to push governments to re-open under the current conditions.”
However, speaking at a CAPA Centre for Aviation online summit, Hardy said: “Now is still the time to prepare, to put protocols in place, to recognise vaccination passports or whatever you call them.”
He warned: “That will be a really challenging process. One billion people around the world have been vaccinated. Most carry a piece of paper in their own language. How do you digitise this? How are we even going to start doing this?”
Menon agreed, saying: “We have travel passes being promulgated, but there are no digital health certificates. So how are these passes to be effective?”
He said: “The first requirement is a repository of all requirements. Then where you can get testing done and how test providers send certificates to travellers and to border agencies.
“The stumbling block is some of these things are not digitised. We need governments to come on board to make it a reality. [But] governments are very cautious about whose certificates they will recognise. It’s going to take a hell of a long time.”
Menon added: “Many border heath restrictions now are confusing and conflicting and if we are to re-open we need to find ways to coordinate policies. That is only possible through bilateral negotiations and travel bubbles and that will take time.”
Hardy noted the EU pledge to make a digital green certificate on Covid status available by late June, but said: “Each [EU] country is also doing its own thing. France is developing its own pass for use within the country.
“Imagine if you come from Asia to Europe. You’ll have one certificate to enter Europe and another for each country. It’s going to be a nightmare.
“Common Pass is being used. Iata’s Travel Pass is being used. Several governments are creating their own pass. Even provinces are creating their own passes in Canada. Private entities are creating their own. It is going to be complicated for a period.”