Health and Healthcare Systems

Could this COVID-19 ‘health passport’ be the future of travel and events?

New app CovidPass aims to help people free of coronavirus to move around safely. Image: CovidPass

Douglas Broom
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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  • Rising COVID-19 infection rates pose a threat to global tourism.
  • A new app acts as a health passport for travellers who are virus-free.
  • Using blockchain technology, it provides an encrypted record of test results.
  • Its creators say it could allow healthy travellers to avoid quarantine.
  • The app could also allow sports and entertainment venues to reopen safely, as well as the global conference and exhibition industry.

Thousands of summer holidays are now up in the air, following a series of COVID-19 flare-ups around the world, with trips cancelled and travellers forced to quarantine when they return home.

In mid-July, the number of confirmed cases globally jumped by a million in just four days. The UK imposed a 14-day isolation on holidaymakers returning from Spain after infection rates spiked there, prompting the UK’s biggest tour operator to cancel all holidays to that country.

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After recording its first cases since April, Viet Nam closed the tourist hotspot of Da Nang to tourists and evacuated 80,000 tourists from the city.

Now, a new health passport app promises to restore confidence to the travel industry, which has been badly hit by the pandemic. Global tourism shrank by 97% in April, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization.

A possible solution

CovidPass is the brainchild of one of the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders, Mustapha Mokass. It also involves other YGLs across 5 continents, including Muna AbuSulayman and Peggy Liu. CovidPass uses blockchain technology to store encrypted data from individual blood tests, allowing users to prove that they have tested negative for COVID-19.

Unlike contact tracing apps, CovidPass will not track users’ movements. Non-mandatory contact tracing apps have met with only limited success so far due to privacy concerns.

Germany, regarded as one of the most successful nations in rolling out a voluntary app, currently has only 16 million users out of 83 million citizens. Experts say at least half the population needs to use a contact tracing app to make it effective in fighting the virus.

Meanwhile, governments are faced with a variety of different testing regimes to validate the health of travellers. “This isn’t enough to reassure tourists or health authorities", says Mokass.

Mokass hopes his app, which is launching in September, will become a standardized solution for airlines, airports and border agencies, and eliminate quarantine for healthy travellers. CovidPass could also allow hotels, cinemas, theatres, sporting and concert venues to reopen safely.

Another possible use would be to help restart the worldwide conference and exhibition industry, which has contracted by 60%, at a cost of $180 billion in lost revenues and impacting 1.9 million jobs, according to the industry’s global association, UFI.

CovidPass commits to mandatory carbon offsetting for each flight passenger, to preserve the environmental benefits of reduced air travel during the crisis.

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Related topics:
Health and Healthcare SystemsFourth Industrial RevolutionEmerging TechnologiesIndustries in Depth
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