By Sherry Stein, Head of Technology Strategy, SITA
Many countries require landing cards or declaration forms as part of the customs and immigration process; most are distributed as paper forms and collected upon entry at the border. Many forms not only provide valuable contact-tracing information, requiring a traveler to provide a local address while in the country, but can also include health-related disclosures. For instance, “Have you visited a farm during your stay?” helps determine risk of exposure and possible transmission of BSE (mad-cow disease).
Health-related questions on customs & immigration declaration forms have often been an important consideration in obtaining a traveler’s self-reported disclosure for possible exposure for various infectious diseases – such as SARS, MERS, H1N1, and recently, COVID19 – and can help guide efforts in managing epidemic and pandemic response. The importance of health-related processes in travel remains paramount and now more evident than ever.
The digital-shift continues to transform border-management processes, accelerating the ability to coordinate and manage a global response to threats of new epidemics before reaching pandemic-level crisis and, ideally, pre-empt the need to lock down borders.
Health Protect offers a collaborative industry approach to addressing the evolving requirement to include health status checks as part of the travel process – and offers the ability to do so with little disruption to existing industry processes.
- During airline check-in (mobile or kiosk), the traditional advance passenger process checks can now add accompanying verification of health declaration status, allowing an airline to issue a boarding pass via self-service, without having to visually assess a printed COVID19 test result at the ticket counter.
- Based on the holistic process, an airline and border-agency are able to make board/no-board decisions that reduce risk of inadmissible travelers being denied entry on arrival or being subject to quarantine or additional testing.
Recently we conducted a trial with SimplyGo in which travelers flying from Germany and Estonia to the United Arab Emirates obtained a negative COVID-19 result via their SimplyGo app before traveling. Integration with the UAE government systems was made possible through the Advance Passenger Processing (APP) platform delivered by SITA. This allowed airlines to offer self-service passenger processing without needing to manually or visually inspect the test results; the verification had already been completed by the UAE border officials.
In April 2021, supporting Sovrin Foundation principles, Aruba introduced the Happy Traveler Card, a self-sovereign identity solution that allowed travelers to Aruba to receive a digital health credential, issued by the Aruba Health Ministry, providing access to services, restaurants and other amenities throughout the island. The solution is based on Linux Foundation’s Cardea code, an open-source ecosystem for exchanging privacy-preserving digital health certificates. A trusted, government-issued digital credential confirms that the traveler’s identity has been correctly verified and linked to a negative test-result. Local service providers (hotels, restaurants, casinos) can rely upon the Happy Traveler Card to grant access to services without access to personal information or having to see the paper test result. The green check tells them all they need to know.
2021 has seen a growing focus on collaborative initiatives for introducing digital health credentials, or health passports, that can reduce fraud and incorporate digital-identity solution principles. SITA is exploring a collaborative industry approach that integrates the various health-oriented solutions with the existing travel ecosystem.
There is no doubt that COVID-19 has had a dramatic impact on the travel industry. It has also created an opportunity to accelerate digital progress, re-emphasize the importance of health in borders management and international travel, and creates an opportunity to increase the resilience of our processes should we face another epidemic or global pandemic in the future.