Major airline companies in the US along with nearly 30 travel and labor groups have come together to urge the White House to create COVID-19 passports for travelers.
Some technology companies have already started using digital versions of COVID-19 passports, but the groups pushing the President Joe Biden’s administration say a standardized, government-supported passport is crucial to “accelerate safe economic activity and recovery.”
“The US must be a leader in this development,” the group wrote on Monday (March 8) in a letter to Jeff Zients, the White House COVID-19 Recovery Team Coordinator. “The current diverse and fragmented digital health credentials used to implement different countries’ air travel testing requirements risk causing confusion, reducing compliance, and increasing fraud.”
Sharon Pinkerton, an executive with Airlines for America, told the outlet that this type of digital passport could up the number of people on flights, which has decreased significantly since the start of the pandemic.
“I do think there’s a pent-up demand to travel,” Pinkerton said. “We’re seeing people gain more and more confidence in flying, but also understanding that it’s simple to have a digital test certification or digital vaccine certificate is going to help build confidence in the system.” The group isn’t necessarily advocating for mandating the COVID-19 vaccine to travel, but they hope that a uniform passport will prevent the need for travel quarantine requirements.
Pinkerton said Hawaii is reportedly considering eliminating its quarantine requirements for travelers if they can prove they’ve tested negative for the coronavirus and a vaccine, which the group thinks is “one of the main benefits of being able to have a digital health credential.”
So far, the White House says the main priority to getting people vaccinated. “...[w]e’ll think about how people can demonstrate they are vaccinated as we get more people vaccinated,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Tuesday (March 9).
In newly released guidelines, the CDC said people who’ve been fully vaccinated should continue to avoid traveling. “Every time that there’s a surge in travel, we have a surge in cases in this country,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said. “We know that many of our variants have emerged from international places, and we know that the travel corridor is a place where people are mixing a lot.”
Given that most people aren’t vaccinated yet, Walensky said people’s safety should be the priority right now. For Black Americans, the lag in getting the vaccines to our community is also a priority, given the disproportionate impact the pandemic has had on us.
Photo Credit: Getty Images