The Commons Project Foundation and the World Economic Forum announced international trials starting last month for CommonPass, a digital health pass for travellers to securely document their certified Covid-19 test status, while keeping their health data private.
CommonPass is built on the CommonPass Framework that establishes standard methods for lab results and vaccination records to be certified and enables governments to set and verify their own health criteria for travellers.
The purpose of CommonPass and the CommonPass Framework is to enable safer airline and cross border travel by giving both travellers and governments confidence in each traveller's verified Covid-19 status.
At present, Covid-19 test results for travel are frequently shared on printed paper - or photos of the paper - from unknown labs, often written in languages foreign to those inspecting them. There is no standard format or certification system.
"Travel and tourism has been down across the board due to the Covid pandemic," said Diane Sabatino, Deputy Executive Director, Office of Field Operations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection. "CBP wants to be part of the solution to build confidence in air travel, and we are glad to help the aviation industry and our federal partners stand up a pilot like CommonPass."
Cathay Pacific Airways and United Airlines trialled the system in October with select volunteers on flights between London, New York, Hong Kong and Singapore, with government authorities observing. Deployments are planned with additional airlines and routes across Asia, Africa, the Americas, Europe and the Middle East in quick succession.
To use CommonPass, travellers take a Covid-19 test at a certified lab and upload the results to their mobile phone. They then complete any additional health screening questionnaires required by the destination country.
With test results and questionnaire complete, CommonPass confirms a traveller’s compliance with the destination country entry requirements and generates a QR code. That code can be scanned by airline staff and border officials. A QR code can be printed for users without mobile devices.
CommonPass adheres to tight privacy principles and is designed to protect personal data in compliance with relevant privacy regulations, including GDPR.
For governments, CommonPass and the CommonPass Framework provide a more reliable means of assessing the health status of incoming travellers and gives them the flexibility to adapt their entry requirements as the pandemic evolves, including whether and what type of lab tests or vaccinations to require.
"Without the ability to trust Covid-19 tests - and eventually vaccine records - across international borders, many countries will feel compelled to retain full travel bans and mandatory quarantines for as long as the pandemic persists," said Dr Bradley Perkins, Chief Medical Officer of The Commons Project and former Chief Strategy & Innovation Officer at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). "With trusted individual health data, countries can implement more nuanced health screening requirements for entry."
Perkins added that the ability to share health information in a verifiable, safe and privacy protecting manner is key to opening borders, whether travelling by land or air.
CommonPass and the CommonPass Framework are being launched by the World Economic Forum and The Commons Project, a Swiss-based non-profit foundation building global digital services and platforms for the common good, in collaboration with a broad coalition of public and private partners around the world, including government representatives from 37 countries across six continents.
"Individual national responses will not be sufficient to address this global crisis," said Christoph Wolff, Head of Mobility at the World Economic Forum. "Bans, bubbles and quarantines may provide short term protection, but developed and developing nations alike need a long-term, flexible, and risk-based approach like CommonPass."
The goal of the trials is to replicate the full traveller experience of taking a test for Covid-19 prior to departure, uploading the result to their phones, and demonstrating their compliance with entry requirements at their departure and destination airports.
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