Industries in Depth

This simple digital solution could streamline global travel and boost trade during COVID - here's how

Iraqi medical staff check passengers' temperature, amid coronavirus outbreak, upon their arrival from Iran, at Najaf airport, Iraq March 5, 2020. REUTERS/Alaa al-Marjani - RC2QDF9IT3JA

Restarting travel and trade are key to the economic recovery from COVID-19. Image: REUTERS/Alaa al-Marjani

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COVID-19

  • A new health data tool could help restart stalled international travel and trade.
  • Individual data is only shared with the user’s permission, ensuring health data is protected.
  • The CommonPass initiative could help slow COVID-19 transmission, while boosting trade and tourism.

COVID restrictions have brought both global economies and the travel industry to a standstill. A new initiative called CommonPass could help jumpstart economic recoveries by helping people safely travel between countries, all while protecting their private data and containing the virus.

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Common sense
The CommonPass framework can be embedded in existing apps, and provides a secure and verifiable way for travelers to confirm their COVID status without revealing detailed health information.

The framework lets travelers access lab test results or vaccination records held through existing data systems or personal digital health records apps (such as Apple Health or Common Health).

The framework validates that health records come from trusted sources and meet a country's entry requirements for health screenings.

User data is stored only at the source (the test lab, for example) and on the user’s mobile phone. Data is shared only with explicit user consent.

With the proper permissions in place, the framework can deliver a simple 'yes' or 'no' answer to officials at key points in a journey, such as prior to boarding an aircraft or on arrival.

Have you read?

The initiative is the brainchild of the Commons Project, a Swiss-based not-for-profit dedicated to building digital tools that safeguard data privacy and benefit the public good.

“CommonPass is a platform that lets people safely and securely collect their health information, whether it is a negative COVID test result or eventually a record of COVID vaccination,” says Paul Meyer, CEO of the Commons Project and a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader.

Adds Meyer: “It allows countries to know confidently that this person can safely be admitted without risk of exposing other people in the country to COVID.”

The project builds on efforts already established by the East Africa Community. As explained in The National, this intergovernmental group spanning Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi and South Sudan developed a system early in the pandemic that shared accredited lab results electronically with border officials to ensure truck drivers could move goods easily.

Restarting trade is key to economic recoveries. Border restrictions, lockdowns and stalled tourism have lead to a host of problems including global job losses, food insecurity and expanding poverty.

COVID-19 Aviation, Travel and Tourism Global Health Future of Health and Healthcare
Global growth in 2020 will fall by 3%. Image: IMF

Thanks to COVID-related restrictions, the International Monetary Fund predicts global growth in 2020 will fall a staggering 3%, leading to a deep recession and the greatest economic contraction since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

While the CommonPass initiative doesn’t offer a silver bullet to ease global economic woes, it can play a part in facilitating safe travel across international borders, helping slow transmission of the virus until an effective vaccine is developed.

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